Boat sinks off Malaysia, at least 61 dead

A victim of the sinking is carried to shore by rescuers.

Story highlights

  • Boat was traveling between Malaysia and Indonesia when it capsized on Thursday
  • 20 survivors were rescued from the boat, which was carrying around 80 passengers

(CNN)Dozens of people have drowned after a boat carrying around 80 people capsized off the coast of western Malaysia.

More bodies were recovered Sunday, bringing the total to 61.
    "The bodies were discovered about eight nautical miles from the location of the incident," Hilir Perak police chief, ACP Mohd Shuhaily Mohd Zain told reporters, according to Bernama, Malaysia's state media.
      "The latest findings bring the number of victims closer to the earlier target of about 70 to 80 passengers. Even though it is approaching the target total, the operation center will remain open until further instructions," he said.
      The 12.2 meter (40 foot) boat was traveling from Kuala Sungai Bernam, off the west coast of Malaysia to Tanjong Balai, Indonesia on Thursday morning when it capsized about nine nautical miles south-west of Tanjong Sauh in the Malacca Straight, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) said.
      Twenty passengers were rescued in the immediate hours after the incident.
      Local fishermen were the first on the scene and rescued 14 people before contacting the MMEA, which then deployed ships and an airplane in a search and rescue operation.
      The search was suspended due to bad weather on Thursday night, but four aircraft and 10 ships from the Malaysian military continued the search Friday, although the MMEA said haze from forest fires in the region had made visibility poor.
      Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Razak offered his condolences on Twitter to the families of those who died.
      "The boat capsize in Sabak Bernam is a sad incident. The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) will continue with the search and rescue operation. Al -Fatihah and my condolences to the families of passengers who were killed," he tweeted, according to an English translation from Malaysian state media.
      The Indonesian President, Joko Widodo, also expressed his "deep condolences" to the families of the victims in a statement on Friday.
      He said Indonesia would be joining in the search for survivors, and asked for an "evaluation of people's cross-border mobility."
      "I hope the families stay strong and resilient. I have ordered a search operation until all the victims are found," Widodo said.
        Thousands of Indonesians regularly make the dangerous crossing to Malaysia -- and back -- in small, often poorly maintained wooden boats to look for work in palm plantations and other industries, and tragedies like this are not uncommon.
        The MMEA said the boat had most likely sunk due to overcrowding or bad weather, although further investigation was needed to determine the details of the sinking and the exact number of people who had been on board.