(KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia) — Twenty-two people, mostly Chinese tourists, were rescued Sunday after drifting more than a day in Malaysian waters after their boat sank in strong waves. Three bodies were recovered and a search was continuing for six people still missing.
The boat’s captain and a crew member were spotted by a military plane and rescued by another tourist boat Sunday, according to government minister Shahidan Kassim and the Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency. The captain told authorities the boat sank in strong waves after leaving Kota Kinabalu in Sabah state on Saturday morning on its way to Pulau Mengalum, an island about 60 kilometers (38 miles) west.
Fishermen found 20 survivors and three dead, two men and a woman.
Shahidan said search efforts were being intensified, including using surveillance planes that see in the dark.
The search area is about 400 square nautical miles (nearly 1,400 square kilometers) of the South China Sea.
Arwin Musbir, the captain of another boat that left for Pulau Mengalum at the same time, told the New Straits Times newspaper that he was following the missing boat but lost sight of it shortly after they left. He said he realized it had gone missing only after he arrived at the island.
Many Chinese travel abroad during the Lunar New Year holiday, which began Saturday.
Associated Press writer Nomaan Merchant in Beijing contributed to this report.