Malaysia tourist boat missing with 31 people on board


A boat carrying 31 people, including at least 28 Chinese tourists, has gone missing off the Malaysian coast, maritime authorities say.

The boat lost contact after departing the eastern state of Sabah on Saturday.

The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency said search and rescue efforts were being hampered by bad weather.

The incident coincides with the first day of China’s week-long Lunar New Year celebration, which is also marked by ethnic Chinese in Malaysia.

The catamaran boat left Kota Kinabalu on Saturday at 09:00 local time (01:00 GMT) and was heading towards Pulau Mengalum, a popular tourist island 60km (37 miles) west of the city.

The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency said it received a distress call from the boat but contact was lost soon after.

“I, like all the relatives of those on board, am hoping for progress in the search and rescue operation,” the tourism minister for Sabah state, Masidi Manun, told the AFP news agency.

The search area covers 400 nautical square miles between Kota Kinabalu and Pulau Mengalum, according to the New Strait Times.

Storms are common in the area at this time of year.

Three crew members were on board the vessel, alongside the 31 passengers.