KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian authorities have temporarily suspended search and rescue efforts for the missing crew of the USS John S. McCain.
Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency director-general Datuk Zulkifli Abu Bakar said operations were halted around 8.30pm on Thursday.
“We have suspended the efforts temporarily after more than 83 hours, covering at least 4,962sq km off the eastern coast of Johor.
“More than 500 personnel, nine vessels and five aircraft were involved in the search,” he said in a statement yesterday.
He said the decision was made after being told by the US Seventh Fleet public affairs that they were halting their search in the sea to concentrate on efforts to find crewmen within the wrecked portion of the USS John S McCain.
“We will reactivate search and rescue operations if there are new leads,” he said.
He said all Malaysian search and rescue assets were on standby for redeployment.
The Royal Malaysia Navy, in a statement, said that the earlier remains handed over to the US Navy was not one of their crew.
“They returned the remains to the KD Lekiu on Thursday evening and we handed it over to the police the same day,” it said.
The statement added that since the United States had called off search and rescue efforts, Malaysian authorities would follow suit.
“Our vessels that are still on patrol in the eastern and southern waters off Johor will keep an eye out for anything that may be connected to the collision,” it said.
The sailors went missing following a collision between the missile destroyer and an oil tanker some 4.5 nautical miles off the coast of Teluk Ramunia at 5.30am on Monday.
The US Navy on Tuesday found remains of missing sailors inside sealed sections of the damaged hull of the USS John S. McCain, which is moored at Singapore’s Changi Naval Base.