Passengers recount enduring 30 hours in water; six remain missing
Malaysian authorities said on Tuesday they would continue searching for five missing Chinese tourists and a crew member from a tour boat that foundered in rough waters on Saturday night.
While relatives of the missing anxiously awaited news, passengers who were rescued began to recount their horrific experience.
The boat, carrying 31 people — 28 Chinese tourists and three crew members — lost contact with marine authorities after it left Kota Kinabalu, headed to Pulau Mengalum, a popular tourist island 60 kilometers to the west, on Saturday.
The boat went down after being hit by heavy waves and the tourists, tied together in life jackets, were swept away by the current, officials said. They were saved by Malaysian fishermen after being afloat for more than 30 hours.
Aside from the six missing people, three tourists were found dead on Sunday, while 22 people, including the boat's captain and another crew member, were rescued.
On Tuesday, authorities said they had launched an investigation.
Also on Tuesday, the rescued tourists were being treated at a hospital in Kota Kinabalu. All were sunburned and dehydrated but in stable condition, according to the hospital.
Tourist Fan Lixia said she and other passengers held onto the body of a dead friend for as long as they could while treading water after the catamaran capsized in the South China Sea.
The catamaran, on a Lunar New Year cruise, sank on Saturday off the coast of Borneo after being battered by heavy waves.
Fan said the tourists, who had life jackets on, were swept away by the current and struggled in the cold water for more than 30 hours.
"If we were found any later, I don't think I would have survived," she told reporters at a hospital in Kota Kinabalu, capital of Malaysia's Sabah state on Borneo.
"My friend died. We dragged his body around for half a day, but we couldn't manage any more so we had to let it go."
Fellow survivor Yang Yaoru said their collective will helped them endure. They shared the little food they had and urged each other to stay alive.
Yang, who was on holiday with her mother, said the survivors huddled together to try to shake off the cold and did not loosen their grip.
Yang said she was especially concerned about her mother, who was not a good swimmer.
"If I had died, my mother couldn't have survived by herself ... I must bring my mother home," the 24-year-old Yang told Chinese broadcaster CCTV.
Ahmad Puzi Ab Kahar, head of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, told a news conference in Kota Kinabalu that no new survivors were found on Monday.
The search, which has been expanded to more than 8,200 square kilometers, faces challenges caused by strong winds and rough seas, but it will continue, he said.
China's Foreign Ministry on Monday asked Malaysia to maintain its search and rescue effort. Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang also said that "China hopes the Malaysian side will carry out a fair and objective investigation to find out the truth as early as possible."
The ship's owner and the two rescued crew members have been detained on accusations of causing death by negligence, said Sabah police chief Ramli Din.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has said that he wants a detailed investigation into the cause of the incident.