Boat carrying suspected illegal immigrants sinks off Malaysia
Wednesday, June 18, 2014 - 00:20
June 18 - Search teams hunt for at least 42 missing passengers from an overloaded boat suspected of carrying illegal Indonesian immigrants that sank off Malaysia's western coast. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
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ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION)
An overloaded boat carrying suspected illegal Indonesian immigrants sank as it left Malaysia's west coast early on Wednesday, and at least three passengers drowned and 34 were missing.
The boat, whose passengers included children, sank at the mouth of a river shortly after midnight as it left Malaysia's Carey Island, likely bound for Indonesia's Sumatra island, officials and witnesses said.
Police said the boat lacked safety equipment such as life jackets, but that rescuers were still holding out hope of finding more survivors. The boat went down in shallow water close to shore.
Malaysian officials did not confirm reports that a people-smuggling gang had been involved with the boat. All 60 survivors have been arrested under immigration laws, they said.
Malaysia, one of Southeast Asia's wealthier economies, has long been a magnet for illegal immigrants from Indonesia and other poorer countries in the region. Many undocumented Indonesians work in Malaysia's extensive oil palm plantations, a mainstay of its economy.
Police said two bodies had been recovered. A Reuters reporter saw three bodies - two on the deck of a rescue boat and another washed up on shore.
Rescuers were scouring the area for survivors and had deployed a helicopter, one large ship and eight smaller boats in the operation, officials said.
Despite periodic crackdowns on illegal workers, Malaysia is home to an estimated 2 million undocumented immigrants or about 7 percent of its 29 million population.
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