Some of the missing may have survived and gone into hiding for fear of being arrested, officials said
Search and rescue operations resumed Thursday for an estimated 26 Indonesian migrants who were still missing after a boat sank off the Malaysian coast, a maritime official said.
The accident occurred before dawn Wednesday about three km off the coast of Kuala Langat, 45 km west of Kuala Lumpur.
Sixty-two other people were rescued and nine died.
Some of the missing may have survived and gone into hiding for fear of being arrested, said Mohammed Hambali Yaakup, a Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency district operations chief.
“The location where the boat capsized is very near the land,” he said.
According to survivors, Mr. Hambali said, 97 people were crammed on to the wooden boat, which sank after it was battered by huge waves.
The boat was believed to be heading for the Indonesian province of Aceh, whose nearest point is about 400 km from the coast of Kuala Langat.
Of the estimated 1.5 million undocumented migrant workers in Malaysia, more than half are from Indonesia, an interior ministry official said. Many make the journey between the two countries on rickety wooden boats in search of employment.
Malaysia has high demand for Indonesian migrant labourers, the International Office of Migration said, noting that the country “is highly dependent on their contribution to its development and industrialisation.” Indonesia and Malaysia have a similar language and culture, facilitating the flow of Indonesian migrant workers to Malaysia.