Tanjung Balau boat tragedy: Johor MMEA says another body found, one rescued victim dies

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Health Ministry personnel carry the body believed to be a victim of the Tanjung Balau boat capsize incident at the LKIM Fisheries Complex near Tanjung Batu Layar in Johor, December 17, 2021. — Bernama pic
Health Ministry personnel carry the body believed to be a victim of the Tanjung Balau boat capsize incident at the LKIM Fisheries Complex near Tanjung Batu Layar in Johor, December 17, 2021. — Bernama pic

KOTA TINGGI, Dec 17 — A body, suspected to be a victim of the Tanjung Balau boat tragedy, was discovered this morning, bringing the total number of victims killed to 21.

Johor Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) deputy director (operations) Maritime Captain Simon Templer Lo Ak Tusa said with the latest discovery, a total of 16 victims are still unaccounted for.

He said the victim’s body was found floating by a local fisherman 2.7 nautical miles east of Tanjung Punggai here around 8.35am today.

Simon Templer also said that one of the earlier 14 boat tragedy survivors was reported to have died at 12.45am today at the Kota Tinggi Hospital.

“As a result, the total number of survivors now stands at 13 people, with 21 who are believed to have perished,” he said in a statement issued here today.

The latest update brings the total number of victims found so far to 34, while the remaining 16 are still considered missing.

Before the ill-fated boat capsized on Wednesday, it was reported to ferry about 50 Indonesian undocumented migrants.

On today’s search-and-rescue (SAR) operations, Simon Templer said the air search covered 135.8 square nautical miles, involving the Fire and Rescue Department’s Mi-17 helicopter in the morning, while the Police Air Unit’s AW 139 helicopter took over duties in the afternoon.

He said the search and rescue teams were challenged by bad weather, with large waves as high as three to five metres making the operations difficult.

“Five marine assets were involved in today’s operations, namely two ships and three boats from MMEA, the Royal Malaysian Navy and the Marine Police Force involved in a search sector of 79 square nautical miles.

“The search on the coast was continued by other participating agencies comprising the Malaysian Armed Forces (ATM), Fire and Rescue Department, police and also the Civil Defence, covering the areas from Tanjung Siang to Tanjung Balau,” he said.

Meanwhile, Simon Templer added that at the same time, the Johor Baru Maritime Rescue Sub Centre (MRSC) also activated another SAR operation.

“The operation was following the incident where a local fishing boat sank in the waters of Batu Pahat yesterday.

“The incident involved four local victims and were rescued by a nearby local fishing boat,” he said.

He also urged the maritime community, especially fishermen, to take safety measures due to the unpredictable weather that can endanger their safety.

MMEA is the lead agency for the joint SAR operation in Tanjung Balau here since the boat tragedy struck on Wednesday morning.

Tanjung Balau is located near the popular Desaru beach resort.

Yesterday, MMEA said eight bodies, comprising six men and two women, from the boat tragedy, were recovered along the Tanjung Balau beach area.

On Wednesday, 11 bodies of Indonesian undocumented migrants were found after the boat they were on capsized after being hit by high waves during bad weather early in the morning.

The boat was reportedly carrying 50 undocumented migrants from Batam and Lombok, Indonesia, and was enroute to Malaysia when the tragedy struck.

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