World Bulletin / News Desk
Malaysia Sunday mounted a major air and sea search for a missing boat carrying 31 people, including 28 Chinese tourists, but strong winds and choppy seas were hampering the operation.
It had left Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia's Sabah state en route for Pulau Mengalum, an island known for its pristine beaches and dive sites.
"The owner of the boat reported it missing on Saturday evening and we have begun a search and rescue mission," said Awil Kamsari, a spokesman from the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency.
In addition to the tourists, a skipper and two crew members were also on board when the boat departed Kota Kinabalu on Saturday morning, the spokesman said, adding that the weather was bad that day.
China's foreign ministry said "around 20" of its nationals were aboard. Its state news agency Xinhua said an emergency team, led by an official from the national tourism administration, had been set up to handle the incident.
An area of 400 nautical square miles is being searched with officers from the maritime agency, the police, the navy and the air force involved.
Malaysian navy chief Ahmad Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin tweeted that it was "so sad as it happened on CNY (Chinese New Year)" and said navy ships and a C130 aircraft were on site for the search.
"I, like all the relatives of those on board, am hoping for progress in the search and rescue operation," Sabah's tourism minister Masidi Manjun said
"Our forces are trying their best."
However bad weather was hampering the search, authorities said.
China's foreign ministry said its consulate-general in Kota Kinabalu had contacted Malaysian authorities and urged them to do all that they could to rescue the tourists.
This incident comes about a week after a boat tragedy off the southern Malaysian state of Johor.
Several bodies washed ashore at a beach near the east coast town of Mersing in Johor on Monday after a boat believed to be carrying some 40 Indonesian illegal immigrants capsized in rough seas.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 29 Ocak 2017, 10:45