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Malaysia: boat carrying dozens of Chinese tourists missing off Borneo

A boat carrying 31 people, including 28 Chinese tourists, is missing off the coast of Borneo, Malaysian maritime authorities said on Sunday.
The boat left Tanjung Aru in Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Malaysia’s eastern Sabah state, at about 9am on Saturday bound for the popular tourist spot of Mengalum island, some 60 kilometres west, officials said.
It was reported missing at about 9.50pm after failing to arrive at the island and a search operation was launched soon after, Sabah and Labuan Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) deputy director Rahim Ramli said.
Bad weather was hampering the search effort, which covers an area of about 400 nautical square miles.
“We are looking at strong winds and choppy waters,” he said.
The Malaysian navy, maritime police and air force were involved in the search, the MMEA said in a statement.
The Chinese consulate in Kota Kinabalu has asked the state government to step up the search effort, Xinhua reported.
The China National Tourism Administration said it has initiated emergency response procedures.
A boat skipper claimed he last saw the missing catamaran in waters near Pulau Sapi Saturday.

Arwin Musbir, 24, said he was transporting 32 Chinese tourists on his boat to Pulau Mengalum, leaving the Tanjung Aru jetty at 9am, together with the missing boat.
“We were heading to Pulau Mengalum and were ahead of them.
“As we passed Pukau Sapi, I could no longer see the boat, “ he said.
He said the boat never arrived at Pulau Mengalum and he only realised something was amiss after he asked other skippers about the boat on his way back to Tanjung Aru.
Fearing the worst, Arwin said he informed the company’s boss.
“There were children on the missing boat but I don’t know how many,” he added.
It is learnt that the missing boat has no radar or communications device system.
A sister of one of the passengers, Shen Haotian, was quoted as saying by Shanghai-based news portal thepaper.cn that five members of her family were on the vessel.
“There was no GPS signal from the cruise, and I lost contact with my family members. I kept calling them yesterday, but their phones were all switched off,” the sister surnamed Lu said.
“The tour agency was not aware of the accident, saying that they got no report from their Malaysian counterparts, until 1am.”
Sabah’s tourism minister Masidi Manun : “I, like all the relatives of those on board, am hoping for progress in the search and rescue operation.
“Our forces are trying their best.”

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