KOTA KINABALU: The search and rescue operation for four Chinese tourists and a crew member who are still missing after a catamaran capsized in the waters of Sabah on Saturday will continue over the next 24 hours.
Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) director-general Maritime Admiral Datuk Seri Ahmad Puzi Kahar said personnel from the relevant agencies - the MMEA, the Royal Malaysian Navy, the Royal Malaysian Air Force and the Royal Malaysian Police - have been deployed in the search operation.
He said about 20 types of marine and air assets, including two sent by the Brunei authorities to look for the victims in their waters, were used in Monday's operation.
"Today, we covered an area of 2,000 sq miles compared with only 400 sq miles yesterday and 1,000 sq miles a day earlier.
"Overall, the search area covered today is 2,400 sq miles if we take into account the search in the waters of Brunei," Admiral Ahmad Puzi told reporters after participating in the operation along with Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim here.
He said that based on the location where 23 other victims were found Sunday evening, the MMEA did not rule out the possibility of the missing victims drifting west.
The operation is focusing in the area.
He said a total of 350 enforcement and rescue personnel were involved in the operation.
Asked on the capacity of the capsized catamaran, Admiral Ahmad Puzi said a statement on the matter would only be made after a comprehensive investigation has been carried out.
"Our priority now is to focus on the search and rescue," he said.
The catamaran with three crew and 27 tourists from China was reported to have capsized due to strong winds and big waves on Saturday, an hour after it left the Tanjung Aru jetty for Pulau Mengalum.
On Sunday, three of the tourists were found dead, while 22 other people, including the skipper and a crew member, were pulled out of the waters safely. - Bernama