Eileen Ng, AP
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Twenty-two people, mostly Chinese tourists, wore life vests and formed a human chain at sea to drift more than 10 hours before they could be rescued Sunday off Malaysia’s coast after their boat sank in turbulent waters, authorities said. Three bodies were recovered, and six other people from the boat were missing.
The boat left Kota Kinabalu in Sabah state at 9 a.m. Saturday on its way to Pulau Mengalum, an island about 60 kilometers (38 miles) west, and was reported missing about 12 hours later.
The captain and a crew member were spotted by a military plane and rescued by another tourist boat Sunday afternoon, according to government minister Shahidan Kassim and the Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency. Fishermen found 20 survivors and three dead, two men and a woman, around 6 p.m., the agency said.
The survivors had huddled together in groups and were wearing life vests. The agency said they had been adrift for 10 hours but didn’t say when the boat sank or give other details of what happened during the other hours since the boat departed.
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.
Twenty-eight of the 31 on board were Chinese, with three crew members.
Many Chinese travel abroad during the Lunar New Year holiday, which began Saturday.