PULAU TIOMAN - Rescuers searching for missing Briton Gareth Huntley reported a possible breakthrough with traces of a foot trail said to be around two to three days' old.
The search for the 34-year-old London accountant will now focus further west to Gunung Kajang, where the trail is believed to lead, some 7.5km from the Lubuk Teja waterfall where Huntley was purportedly headed to.
"The search party, which had camped the night in the narrowed search area northeast of the waterfall, will head to Gunung Kajang and expect to arrive there by evening.
"We will also have teams from Kampung Mukut and Kampung Paya moving north and east, with Gunung Kajang as the rendezvous point for all teams," Pahang Fire and Rescue Department deputy director Morni Mamat told reporters at the base operations camp at the Kampung Juara turtle project site yesterday.
At around noon on May 27, Huntley had reportedly informed his chalet management that he was trekking to the waterfall, a hike that supposedly would take about 75 minutes.
At 5pm, when he did not return to the chalet, his friends and some villagers mounted a search for Huntley, who had arrived at the turtle project site on May 24 where he had intended to serve as a volunteer.
Morni said the foot trail was discovered beyond a hydro dam situated about 1km from the waterfall.
He added that the department was confident the trail belonged to Huntley as the area near the dam was not frequented by tourists and, up until now, had not been explored by search and rescue officers.
He described the trail as impressions that included snapped twigs, trampled leaves and footprints.
He said the authorities believed Huntley, reported to be a capable hiker, would have started looking for a stream as soon as he realised he was lost and might have followed it to Gunung Kajang.
"It's easy for him to survive there as there are plenty of fresh water rivers to sustain him," added Morni.
However, he said, the new area might pose a bigger challenge for the rescuers as the 1,038m-high mountain was surrounded by dense jungle and 45° to 50° steep hills.
"Moving 1km in the jungle in that particular area would take an hour to accomplish.
"On top of that, the area is rocky and hilly," he said.
State police chief Senior Deputy Comm Datuk Sharifuddin Ab Ghani said the search would be widened, whereby more officers would be employed in the operation, which currently involved 154 people.
"We have asked VAT69 from Ulu Kinta for their assistance and 20 of them are expected to arrive today. We have also increased to six the number of boats scouring the coast area," he said.