KOTA KINABALU: Some 158 people have been rescued after a southern Philippines-based ferry MB Juhairi sank after hitting a barge close to the port in Semporna at 8am Wednesday.
Based on reports received so far, only nine people sought outpatient medical assistance at the Semporna hospital.
Sandakan police chief Supt Peter Umbas said that they believe most victims have been rescued and the vessel was slowly sinking as it had sprung a leak following the coalition.
"Various agencies are at the scene and continuing operations,'' he said when contacted at 11pm.
It is understood that the ferry left Bongao island in southern Philippines for Semporna at about 2pm Wednesday and was just arriving in Semporna when it collided with the barge.
Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), marine police, and firemen were among the agencies at the scene facilitating the rescue.
"Most victims were able to be taken out unharmed as the ferry was sinking slowly though some sustained some minor injuries during the collision,'' witnesses told The Star.
Umbas said that police were also investigating the incident in which the ferry was hit from the rear.