Death Toll Rises to 10 in Malaysia Boat Sinking

A handout photo provided by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency of Malaysian Marine police rescuing a dead body at Sungai Air Hitam, Malaysia, 18 June 2014 (DPA).

By John Grafilo (DPA)

KUALA LUMPUR (DPA) — Rescuers on Thursday recovered another body of a passenger of a boat packed with undocumented Indonesian migrants that sank off Malaysia's coast, bringing to 10 the total number of people killed.

The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) said the body of a male was recovered by its officers conducting search and rescue operations in the sea off Kuala Langat town, where the boat sank before dawn on Wednesday.

Twenty-five people remained missing, while 62 have been rescued, according to the MMEA operations centre.

Some of the missing may have survived and gone into hiding for fear of being arrested, said Mohammed Hambali Yaakup, an MMEA district operations chief.

"The location where the boat capsized is very near the land," he said.

According to survivors, Hambali said, 97 people were crammed on to the wooden boat, which sank after it was battered by huge waves.

The boat was believed to be heading for the Indonesian province of Aceh, whose nearest point is about 400 kilometres (220 nautical miles) from the coast of Kuala Langat.

Of the estimated 1.5 million undocumented migrant workers in Malaysia, more than half are from Indonesia, an interior ministry official said. Many make the journey between the two countries on rickety wooden boats in search of employment.

Malaysia has high demand for Indonesian migrant labourers, the International Office of Migration said, noting that the country "is highly dependent on their contribution to its development and industrialization."

Indonesia and Malaysia have a similar language and culture, facilitating the flow of Indonesian migrant workers to Malaysia.