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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Search widens for missing four in Sabah waters

KOTA KINABALU - Authorities have widened the search area as search and rescue operations for four people missing off the coast of northern Sabah enter the third day.

Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) Regional Maritime director First Admiral Mohd Zubil Mat Som said that at least eight vessels have been deployed for the sea and air search over 60 nautical miles from where the four ― including a Spanish couple ― were last believed to be.

“Based on the wind and currents, we are searching in areas west and north west wards were we believe they could have drifted to, if their engine had failed,” he said in a statement here today.

Two Spaniards ― David Hernandes Gasula, 29, and Marta Miguel, 30 ― believed to be guests of Tanjung Simpang Mengayau resort owner Tommy Lam, and a Malaysian named Ella, believed to be a staff of the resort, disappeared Monday after a day trip to the lesser known Balambangan island, some two hours away by boat.

They were believed to have left the island at 5pm and were due to arrive back before 8pm.

The multi agency search including the MMEA, Malaysian navy, marine police and air force have deployed sea vessels ― the KM Memmon, Kilat 48, KD Baung, KD Jerong, Adal 16 and a beechcraft ― while the Dauphin helicopter and a Cessna from Layang Layang Aerospace will comb some 3,600 sq miles of sea in search of the quartet.

Search hours are from 6.15am to 7pm and extend as far as Mantanani island off Kota Kinabalu in the west coast.

A source in the MMEA, who declined to be named, said that it was unlikely that the boat the four had been travelling in had washed ashore if it drifted west or north west, but authorities were hopeful that they had somehow reached land.

“Chances of surviving at open sea in a small boat is 50/50 but higher if they are experienced. The weather has been poor but we are still hoping for the best. We will expand our search as needed,” he said.

A family friend of Lam’s said that the resort owner had previously made day trips to the island of Balambangan, which they were thinking of developing as a tourist attraction due to the cave systems and historical value of the island.

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