KUALA LUMPUR- At least two people died and 18 others were missing after an overloaded fishing boat carrying illegal Indonesian immigrants capsized off the coast of southern Malaysia, a maritime official said Tuesday.
The small fiberglass boat overturned and sank late Monday with around 80 people on board as a patrolling vessel was pursuing it off the state of Johor, the official with the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency said.
“The boat carried illegal immigrants going back to Indonesia” to celebrate the end of Ramadan, the official told AFP, adding that 59 people had been rescued.
“The boat was small and… overloaded,” said the official, who requested anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media.
He said the bodies of one man and a woman had so far been recovered.
The boat was heading to Indonesia’s Batam island and sank three nautical miles off Tanjung Piai, peninsular Malaysia’s southern-most point, he added, raising hopes that some of those missing could have swum to safety.
He said authorities were still investigating the accident but the boatman — who is among those still missing — may have panicked when he saw the agency’s patrol vessel and lost control.
He denied local media reports that the two vessels collided