Woman dead, 7 people missing in Malaysia boat accident

KUALA LUMPUR - An Indonesian woman died and seven people remain missing after a wooden boat believed to be smuggling them out of Malaysia to return home for the end of Ramadan overturned, authorities said Friday.

Twenty-seven people have been saved after the boat heading to Indonesia's Batam island capsized early Thursday off southern Johor state, said Mustapa Kamal Abbas, an official with the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency.

He said those rescued included an eight-month-old boy and two other women.

The 35 people on board were believed to be immigrants living illegally in Malaysia who were returning home to Indonesia to celebrate the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan next month.

A passing tanker fished 28 of the passengers and crew out of the water on Thursday after spotting them clinging to their boat, 12 hours after it suffered an engine failure and overturned in high waves, Mustapa said.

A woman among those rescued was found unconscious and later pronounced dead. Maritime authorities have deployed a ship and a speedboat to search for the seven people still missing, Mustapa said.

The boat set sail late Wednesday before suffering the engine failure.

Boating accidents along Malaysia's coast are common as the relatively affluent country draws thousands of people from poorer regional neighbours such as Indonesia and Myanmar, with many seeking to work illegally.

Authorities are beefing up patrols along the coast as many Indonesians seek to sneak out of the country and be reunited with family for the end of Ramadan, which falls in August.