A boast carrying 31 people, mostly Chinese national, has gone missing off the Malaysian coast, officials say.
According to the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, the boat had left Kota Kinabalu, the capital of the eastern state of Sabah, on Saturday morning for the popular tourist island of Pulau Mengalum, located 60 kilometers west of the city.
There were 28 Chinese, a skipper and two crew members, aboard the vessel, which was reported missing hours later after it lost contact and failed to arrive at its destination, the report said.
A search and rescue operation has been launched for possible survivors. Malaysian maritime officials have sent out ships and helicopters to the site.
"The search area covers 400 nautical square miles and involves waters between Kota Kinabalu and Pulau Mengalum,” a maritime communications officer said.
Sabah’s Tourism Minister Masidi Manjun also said, "I, like all the relatives of those on board, am hoping for progress in the search and rescue operation.” "Our forces are trying their best.”
The incident comes as people in China celebrate the first day of the country’s Lunar New Year. This event is also observed by ethnic Chinese in Malaysia.
Chinese officials have given conflicting numbers of those on aboard.
The Chinese Consulate General in Kota Kinabalu in the Malaysian state of Sabah said that the reason for the disappearance was not clear yet.