Malaysia said a second Indonesia-bound boat sank off its western coast yesterday as search teams recovered more bodies from an incident the day before.
Nine people are missing after the boat carrying 27 sank after 2 a.m. local time near the coastal district of Sepang, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency operations officer Mohd. Hambali Yaakup said by phone from the port city of Klang outside Kuala Lumpur. Eleven bodies have been recovered and 24 people are still unaccounted for from the earlier occurrence, he said.
“We don’t know the cause of the latest sinking yet,” Mohd. Hambali said. “The survivors are traumatized and haven’t been able to tell us much.”
A wooden boat carrying 97 people heading for the Indonesian province of Aceh that sank yesterday was believed to have been carrying illegal immigrants, the Sun newspaper reported. Survivors were rescued by search teams and fishermen, while some swam to a nearby island, Mohd. Hambali said.
Malaysia has seen at least nine other incidents of boats carrying illegal immigrants sinking since 2000, according to the New Straits Times. Thousands of undocumented immigrants were arrested in Malaysia last year in a nationwide operation to track down and deport almost half a million illegal workers from countries including Indonesia and Bangladesh.
About 1.3 million overstayers registered for permits during an amnesty in 2011.
Southeast Asia’s third-largest economy is clamping down on cheap illegal labor as it strives to move up the value chain from its agricultural base into more high-end manufacturing and services. Malaysia has a population of about 30 million people and the unemployment rate was at 3 percent at the end of March, according to the Statistics Department.
The incidents involving the loss of lives of foreign nationals are the latest in the Southeast Asian nation and come more than three months after Malaysian Airline System Bhd. (MAS) Flight 370 vanished off radars en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur. The hunt for the aircraft has become the longest in modern aviation history and to date, no debris from the Boeing wide-body airliner has been retrieved.