Search intensifies for missing four including Spanish couple off Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: The western coast of the Kudat peninsula is now the focus of a search and rescue of four people including a Spanish couple who went missing in Sabah's northern waters off Pulau Balambangan a week ago.

This follows growing concerns of the chances of survival of the group who went missing in a small motorised boat while on a two-hour ride back from the island to Simpang Mengaya or more popularly known as the Tip of Borneo last Monday.

The lack of fresh water if the victims continue to drift in open sea or the possibility of them being washed ashore along the coast are on the minds of rescuers as they intensified their search, which enters the seventh day, along the waters and coastlines of the Kudat peninsula.

Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) Sabah and Labuan regional director First Admiral Mohd Zubil Mat Som said Sunday that they were also focusing their search in the southwestern Pulau Mengalum area based on their studies of the winds and current patterns.

He said three helicopters - the MMEA's Dauphin, the Beachcraft from the Air Force and a Navy's Super Lynx - were among the assets involved in the air search while five vessels from the various wings including marine police were part of the search operations.

The missing have been identified as Spaniards David Hernandez Gasulla, 29, his wife Martha Miguel, 30, Tanjung Simpang Mengayau resort owner Tommy Lam Wai Yin, 44, and his employee Armella Ali Hassan, 23.

Families continue to keep vigil and hold special prayers for the safe return of the four who went missing in waters where the Sulu Sea meets the South China Sea.

Rescuers over the past few days have followed up many leads including sighting of the capsized boat on Saturday but all turned up to nothing.

Medics believe that their chances of survival would be higher if they beached along the coast or any islands but it could be potentially fatal if they remained adrift without fresh water.

Another worry is the quality of their life jackets. If the jackets were of lower quality, it could only last a day or two while the better quality ones could keep them afloat for at least a week to 10 days.