MUAR: It was almost a miracle when two crewmen were rescued – barely alive – from the engine room of a sand dredge, some 50 hours after it capsized off the waters here.
The two were trapped in an air pocket within the Chinese sand dredge which had capsized and turned turtle at about 9am on Wednesday.
The 47-year-old and 62-year-old crew members, both Chinese nationals, were found at about 2pm yesterday and brought to shore two hours later.
Hopes of finding more survivors among the 11 missing crewmen were raised when divers managed to rescue the two who had almost nothing to eat or drink for two days.
Muar district health officer Dr Noorhaida Ujang said the two were suffering from extreme dehydration and were weak after being in the water for over 50 hours.
“They were very weak and were incoherent when they tried to speak,” she said.
She added the two had been sent to the Sultanah Fatimah Specialist Hospital in Muar for further observation.
Several teams of Royal Malaysian Navy divers rushed to the scene after news of the capsize.
A team of seven divers from China’s SOS Maritime Centre in Guangdong also joined in the search with some 30 local divers and those engaged by the shipping company.
“We are doubling our efforts to locate the remaining survivors after the rescue of the two crew members as we believe they may still be alive,” Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) Southern Region Maritime deputy director Capt Sanifah Yusof told reporters at the operations room in Parit Jawa here yesterday.
He pointed out that divers managed to home in on knocking sounds made by the two trapped crewmen who were rescued yesterday.
“Divers will now focus on searching the vessel’s other compartments,” he said, adding that air was being pumped into the vessel in an attempt to keep the remaining crew alive.
Asked about the chances of locating the other missing crew, Sanifah said the vessel was large and had many compartments.
“There were some knocking sounds but it is difficult to home in on them.
“This is because of reverberation throughout the ship when the knocking was initially detected,” he said.
Asked if attempts would be made to cut open sections of the ship to look for survivors, Sanifah said diving was a safer option.
He said the submerged vessel was moved closer to shore and stabilised to prevent it from sinking.
The SAR rescue team found a body near the capsized ship yesterday evening.
Efforts are being taken to identify the body which is believed to be one of the missing crew of the ill-fated vessel.
The body was sent to Muar Hospital at about 8.30pm.
Authorities will hold a press briefing today.
The Chinese vessel JBB Rong Chang 8 capsized 12 nautical miles west of Tanjung Tohor. One crewman died while three others were rescued.
The boat had 18 crew members – one Malaysian and the rest, foreigners.