No cheer for boat tragedy survivors

No cheer for boat tragedy survivors
Safe and sound: Some of the survivors resting at Carey Island after being rescued.

KUALA LANGAT, Malaysia - They had escaped alive but there was only sorrow for those who had survived the boat tragedy.

"They were hugging me, asking for help. They had passports which could have fallen into the water when the boat sank.

"I felt sorry for them. We will try our best to help them through this difficult situation," said Tengku Rauyani, 57, a member of the Malaysian Society for the Acheh Community.

Some of the male survivors looked dazed and fatigued as they were being escorted to the interrogation room to have their statements recorded.

The society's president Haji Mansur, 51, said many of those on the boat were victims of syndicates that prey on Indonesians without valid documents.

He said he had warned members of his community against entering and leaving the country through illegal means.

"I advise them to pay the penalty for overstaying their social visit passes or working visas.

"At most, they're required to pay a penalty of between RM400 and RM500 (S$150 to S$200). By going through an agent, they are risking their lives moving between countries on a boat," he added.

A pregnant woman was among the 30-odd survivors of the boat mishap who were sent to the Telok Panglima Garang police headquarters yesterday.

The other 31 survivors were sent to the Customs Department for further action.

Indonesian ambassador to Malaysia Herman Prayitno said medical personnel from the Kuala Langat Health Clinic were sent to the station to ensure that the pregnant woman was all right.

"The survivors were sad to lose their belongings in the incident, but otherwise they seemed to be in good health."

Prayitno said most of the survivors had entered the country legally but had overstayed, adding that they would help the "overstay" cases to go home via legal means.

Prayitno extended his gratitude to the police and the Taiwan Buddhist Tzu-Chi Foundation Malaysia for providing food and self-hygiene equipment to those in custody.

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