23 missing after boat flips in Malaysia, 181 rescued
KUALA LUMPUR - Agence France-Presse
Passengers, who survived after their overloaded boat capsized, rest on the shores in Belaga, Malaysia's Sarawak state on the island of Borneo on May 28, 2013. AFP PhotoTwenty-three people are missing in remote Borneo after a boat overloaded with holidaymakers heading home for a festival capsized Tuesday in treacherous rapids on a jungle river, Malaysian police said.
"Twenty-three people are still missing," local police chief Bakar Anak Sebau told AFP.
He said 181 were rescued after the morning accident on the Rajang river, Malaysia's longest, which flows from deep in the rugged interior of Borneo island in the state of Sarawak.
The boat's capacity was just 74 passengers, added Bakar, police chief of the town of Belaga from where the boat set off shortly before the incident.
Most passengers were believed to be heading home for the coming weekend's Gawai festival, a major cultural and religious observance for indigenous Borneo tribes that triggers heavy travel in the state.
Bakar said no deaths have so far been confirmed.
He said the boat was heading downstream and was believed to have struck a rock while navigating one of many sections of rapids on the 560-kilometre (347-mile) waterway.
The accident happened deep in the wild and sparsely populated interior of Sarawak, one of two Malaysian states located on Borneo. Sarawak is Malaysia's largest state by area but also one of its least developed.
Gawai is one of the most important festivals celebrated each year by Borneo's dozens of indigenous tribes and other ethnic groups, with thousands travelling to meet family and friends for the festival