A wooden boat, overcrowded with 97 suspected illegal immigrants from Indonesia, has sunken off the western coast of Malaysia. At least 60 Indonesians have been rescued so far, the rest remain missing.
The incident happened earlier today (1 AM local time) off Banting, Strait of Malacca. According to an official with the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), Muhammad Zuri, the boat was en route to Malaysia. The information was denied by another official who believed the Indonesians were heading home for the holy Muslim month of Ramadan. According to him, they all are illegal workers. Malaysia is one of the countries with wealthier economies in the region and attracts undocumented workers for palm plantations.
There were women and children on board the boat and it was unseaworthy. More of the survivours made it safely to land as the boat sank close to shore.
"We believe the boat was overcrowded and the sea was rough during the incident," commented the head of the MMEA office at Port Klang, Mohamad Hambali Yaakup.
The Malaysian authorities have dispatched five vessels and a helicopter to the scene. Several fishing boats have been helping the rescue operation.