Seven Indonesians missing as boat capsizes near M'sia

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Pengerang (The Star/ANN) - A boat with 48 illegal Indonesians heading towards Batam capsized after being hit by strong winds and rough seas some 300m from Teluk Ramunia here.

The passengers held on to the capsized boat for about two hours before one of them managed to call the Malaysia Emergency Response Services (MERS) hotline at about 5:20am yesterday.

According to Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) Tanjung Sedili district operations director Commander Mustafa Kamal Abas, the foreigners were on their way to Lombok via Batam when bad weather swept the boat 0.6 nautical miles southeast of Teluk Ramunia.

"A total of 41 foreigners including 35 men, two toddlers aged one and two years old, and a woman who is eight months' pregnant, were rescued.

"As of 1pm, seven are still missing including the boat's captain and two crewmen," he told reporters at the Tanjung Pengelih marine jetty.

Comm Mustafa Kamal added that a standard eight-metre fibre boat could usually only hold around 20 people.

He also said that the rescue mission, involving personnel from MMEA, marine police and the Fire and Rescue Department would increase its search radius.

Silahwati, 30, who works as a cleaner in Johor Baru, said that she wanted to go back to Lombok to settle her late husband's funeral matters.

"We had to swim out to board the boat which was waiting for us 50m from the shore.

"Not long after we boarded, strong waves caused the boat to be flooded with water and then it capsized," she said.

Comm Mustafa Kamal said the victims, aged between 20 and 40 years old, did not suffer any serious injuries and were sent to the Tanjung Sedili MMEA office.

He added that they had no proper identification papers.

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