Search For Last S'porean Still Missing From Capsized Boat

28 Dec

SINGAPORE: Authorities in Mersing have deployed more than 130 personnel from various departments to search for the sole Singaporean still missing from the boat that capsized on Sunday.

44-year-old Ng Kian Tek has not been found and authorities say they will do whatever it takes to find him.

Singapore's Foreign Affairs Ministry said the bodies of the other four Singaporeans involved in the tragedy will be brought back to Singapore on Monday evening. They will be accompanied by family members and next-of-kin.

The ministry and the Consulate-General in Johor Baru assisted with the arrangements for the return.

The body of the fourth Singaporean victim had earlier been recovered and identified by family members. Malaysian police said the victim was 41-year-old Tor Soon Kwee.

In response to media queries, the Foreign Affairs Ministry said the remaining Singaporean who had been warded in hospital has been discharged.

29 passengers, mainly Singaporeans, were on a boat travelling from a kelong near Sibu island towards the Tanjong Leman ferry terminal when the mishap happened at about 1.30pm on Sunday.

Some distraught family members of victims gathered outside the mortuary on Monday, while others came together at the Tanjong Leman ferry terminal to offer prayers.

They also received updates from Malaysian authorities.

Chief Police Officer of the state of Johor, Mohd Mokthar Mohd Sharrif, arrived at the Tanjong Leman ferry terminal in the afternoon to visit the operations room and family members of the sole Singaporean who is still missing.

Speaking to reporters, he said: “Our focus now is to look for the missing person. 133 people from various agencies are involved in the search and rescue operations.

“We will do what it takes, we will carry on as long as it needs to look for the missing person. I've also instructed the police chief to expedite investigations.”

Mr Mohd Mokthar declined to comment on whether there were enough life jackets on the boat for the passengers. He said investigations are ongoing.

Survivor Heng Lih Hooi, said: “None of us were wearing a life jacket. We were not asked to wear life jackets. I think wearing the life jackets could probably save some of our friends.”

Another said: “We cheated death this time round. We were lucky to survive.”

These same thoughts came from other Singaporeans who returned to Mersing from the same kelong on Monday. They too had faced the issue of overcrowding in their boat on Saturday.

One of the passengers, Ng Beng Choon, said: “When we came that time, there were 13 of us in the boat. The boatman was supposed to leave. So we told them (there are) already 13, you cannot take another 13. But they just don't listen to you. They came back for another 13.”

The accident also raised concerns whether tourism in the state of Johor would be affected.

Hoo Seong Chan, state tourism executive counsellor, Johor, said: “To me, it's not going to affect the tourism industry in Johor. Of course in future, we still need cooperation from all sectors to make sure safety is out first priority.”

Malaysian authorities will be forming a committee to look into what can be done to prevent a similar tragedy from happening again.

– CNA/al

Channel News Asia

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