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Monday June 17, 2013

Scuba divers locate ill-fated vessel at a depth of 18m and downstream

BELAGA: The Kawan Mas express boat has been located about 350 metres away from Giam Bungan where it sunk on May 28.

Belaga police chief DSP Bakar Sebau said scuba divers from Therra Horizon Sdn Bhd, the Petronas subsidiary company tasked to continue with the search and rescue operation, located the boat at about 5.45pm yesterday.

He said the company was waiting for the arrival of three more divers, a naval engineer and all the necessary equipment to try to raise the boat which was resting on rocks at a depth of about 18m in the Rajang River.

“I have been told their equipment will be here by Tuesday for them to start work the following day,” said DSP Bakar, who is still in charge of the operation.

“In the meantime, my men, the Fire and Rescue Department, Rela and Civil Defence Department personnel will continue their surface search,” he added.

In an interview with Bernama, Therra Horizon technical advisor Captain Khairul Azeman Mokhtar said the raising of the boat would be a very tedious and painstaking process.

“We need to be ultra careful. We do not want to break up the boat in the process. This can happen due to the water pressure.

“We have also asked our naval engineer from Kuala Lumpur to direct and supervise the whole operation,” he said.

Capt Khairul said they would need a whole day to attach their floatation system to the sides of the boat.

“Then we have to tie four floaters of five ton each before pumping air into them,” he said.

He pointed out that the pumping of air needed to be done very gradually and he expected the boat to be brought to the surface within two days.

“We hope to be able to do so when the Bakun Hydro Dam releases its excess water into the river so that we can have more surface height,” he said.

Capt Khairul said the operation to raise the boat would be the first ever in Sarawak and the third in the country so far.

The Kawan Mas was carrying more than 200 passengers when it sank at Giam Bungan, one of the notorious rapids in the upper Rajang River, after hitting a log and developing engine problem.

Some 213 passengers survived; two identified as Roslin Jati, 34, and Maurice Ajan, 22, are still missing; and one body had been recovered.

The boat was packed with workers returning to celebrate the annual Gawai Dayak festival on June 1 and was licensed to carry only 64 passengers. — Bernama

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