JOHOR BARU: Seven Indonesian nationals drowned, while 34 others were rescued, after a boat capsized in Pantai Batu Layar, Sungai Rengit, near Kota Tinggi, last night.
Kota Tinggi police chief Supt Rahmat Othman said a member of the public had telephone police after hearing cries for help in the waters of Pantai Batu Layar at 9.45pm.
The bodies of two men and five women aged between 20 and 40 had been recovered by noon today.
Rahmat said about 60 people were believed to be in the boat, which was heading towards Batam.
He said rescuers were searching three nautical miles of beaches. About 12 marine police, two policemen from Rengit police station and five firemen are involved.
Pos Sepang Royal Artillery 21 Platoon led by Lt Muhammad Aimin Zainuddin detained 34 illegal immigrants comprising 26 men and eight women aged between 20 and 50. They were rescued and handed over to the Immigration Department.
State Immigration director Rohaizi Bahari said the illegal immigrants are believed to have paid between RM500 and RM1,200 to local and foreign skippers for passage.
He said they would gather in a forest area before being taken out of the country.
“The victims said the boat was hit by a big wave of between one to two metres causing the vessel to overturn. They were later rescued by villagers and the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency personnel before being handed over to the army,” he said in a media conference here today.
Initial inspection showed that only three of the 34 rescued victims had passports. The rest did not have any identification documents.
They would be handed to Indonesian consular officials for repatriation, he said.