KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – The captain and a crew member from a missing Malaysian boat made it to safety Sunday while others among the 31 people on board, including 28 Chinese tourists, on the boat may be drifting in the water waiting to be rescued, authorities said.
Several Malaysian navy and police ships and at least one plane were searching for the boat but were being hindered by high winds and choppy waters, according to a statement from the Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency. The search area is about 400 square nautical miles (nearly 1,400 square kilometers) of the South China Sea.
The captain and a crew member were found Sunday afternoon in the waters between the island of Pulau Tiga and an offshore oil drilling platform, Malaysia's The Star Online reported. The boat had left Kota Kinabalu in Sabah state on Saturday morning on its way to Pulau Mengalum, an island about 60 kilometers (38 miles) west.
The Chinese consulate in Kota Kinabalu said multiple survivors "were reported drifting at sea waiting for rescue," the official Xinhua News Agency reported. Chinese state television said the crew reported helping passengers put on life jackets as the boat was sinking, then tried to look for help.
Malaysia deployed search and rescue ships and helicopters after receiving a call Saturday night about the boat's disappearance, Xinhua reported.
Arwin Musbir, the captain of another boat that left for Pulau Mengalum at the same time, told the New Straits Times newspaper that he was following the missing boat but lost sight of it shortly after they left. He said he realized it had gone missing only after he arrived at the island.
Calls to the Chinese consulate rang unanswered Sunday, as did calls to the Maritime Enforcement Agency.
Both the Maritime Enforcement Agency and Xinhua reported there were 28 Chinese on board, as well as three crew. Many Chinese travel abroad during the Lunar New Year holiday, which began Saturday.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said in a tweet Sunday afternoon that he was monitoring developments in the search.