KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – At least 60 people survived when a wooden boat carrying 97 Indonesians capsized and sank early Wednesday after leaving Malaysia's west coast, but 32 others are still missing and five bodies have been recovered, Malaysia's maritime agency said.
The boat sank shortly after midnight about 2 nautical miles from shore on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur while trying to leave Malaysia illegally for Aceh province in Indonesia, said agency official Mohamad Hambali Yaakup.
He said survivors included 12 women and a child. Those dead were a woman and four men, he added.
The Indonesians, suspected to be illegal immigrants, were believed to be heading home ahead of the start of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.
They were being questioned by police and immigration authorities, and Indonesian embassy officials were also on the scene.
A ship, eight boats and a helicopter were searching for further survivors. Police Superintendent Azman Abdul Razak said 100 personnel were involved in the rescue effort.
Mohamad Hambali said authorities are still investigating why the boat sank but rough sea and an overloaded boat could have been factors. Some survivors also claimed the boat was leaking, he said.
Tens of thousands of Indonesians work illegally in plantations and other industries in Malaysia. They often risk dangerous journeys in poorly equipped boats to return home.
The area the boat sank is in the Strait of Malacca directly across from Indonesia.