Search to focus on finding items belonging to catamaran victims, says Sabah MMEA

AARON LEE


KOTA KINABALU: The search operation for the remaining five missing persons of the sunken catamaran boat which entered its 41 days, now focuses on discovering the victim's belongings.


Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) Sabah and Labuan director First Admiral Mohd Zubil Mat Som said they believed the bodies of the four Chinese tourists and a local boat crew have sunked to the sea floor.


“Assets have been reduced while patrol operations are still being carried out between Pulau Mengalum and Pulau Tiga waters. The SAR in Brunei waters however had ceased.


“The purpose (to continue the patrol operation) is to try to trace any items that belonged to the victims to help in the investigation.


"If however we do find bones or pieces of flesh, we can determine the identity based on DNA testing," said Zubil.


MMEA had recently launched Ops Mengalum to find solutions to ensure such incident would not occur again in the future, and since the operation started on Feb 18, MMEA have inspected 249 boats and 1,845 passengers.


He said the fact that only one vessel was detained during the stint showed that boat operators have started to abide by the maritime rules.


The catamaran was carrying 28 Chinese tourists and three crewmen to Pulau Mengalum when it capsized after leaving the Tanjung Aru around 9am on Jan 28.


Twenty tourists and two crewmen survived and rescued by authorities, while four bodies have been recovered.