Malaysian rescuers search for 15 Indonesians missing after rickety boat capsizes; 2 dead

By Julia Zappei, AP
Tuesday, June 22, 2010

15 Indonesians missing in Malaysia boat accident

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysian rescuers searched for as many as 15 Indonesians missing at sea Wednesday more than 24 hours after their rickety boat capsized and sank. Two bodies, including a young girl, were recovered.

Five vessels and a helicopter searched for the missing, believed to be illegal migrants from Indonesia on their way back home on the decrepit vessel, said Baljeet Singh, a district police chief in southern Negeri Sembilan state.

The rescue team scoured the Malacca Strait — which separates the two countries — for at least 15 people after eight Indonesians found after Tuesday’s capsize gave conflicting accounts of how many passengers were on board.

A 29-year-old pregnant woman, Azijah Kasimin, told local media she paid 1,000 ringgit ($300) to return to Indonesia after working in Malaysia for two years. She managed to survive by clinging onto a diesel drum until a merchant boat plucked her from the sea.

“I was shocked when I saw the rickety boat … I boarded the boat with a heavy heart,” she was quoted by The Star newspaper as saying, adding when the vessel sank amid towering waves it was “the scariest moment of my life.”

Accidents caused by rough seas and overloading are common, and dozens of people have drowned in recent years.

Singh said none of the six men and two women rescued by authorities and passing boats had valid travel documents.

The Indonesian Embassy estimates some 800,000 Indonesians live and work illegally in Malaysia, mostly in plantations, construction sites and restaurants. Many go home after a couple of years or for short breaks by sailing in poorly maintained fishing boats across the Malacca Strait.

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