KUALA LUMPUR: A wooden boat crammed with migrant workers who were headed back to Indonesia capsized Thursday off Malaysia’s western coast, killing at least 14 people, a maritime official said.
The boat was believed to be carrying 70 people, said First Adm. Mohamad Aliyas Hamdan, district chief of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency. Fishermen had earlier estimated that 100 people were on board.
He said 13 women and one man were confirmed dead, and 19 people had been rescued.
Agency official Mohamad Hambali Yaakup said the boat sank in bad sea conditions not far from the coast, and several vessels and an aircraft were searching for survivors near the coastal town of Sabak Bernam in central Selangor state.
He said the boat was believed to have been taking migrant workers home to Tanjung Balai in Indonesia’s Sumatra province and was likely to have been overcrowded.
Such incidents are common in Malaysia, which has up to 2 million Indonesian migrants working illegally.
The Indonesians work without permits in plantations and other industries in Malaysia, and often travel between the countries by crossing the narrow Strait of Malacca in poorly equipped boats.