Malaysian Navy gunboat goes missing off Sabah PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 07 October 2014 14:17

The Malaysian navy has launched a search for seven crew members after their gunboat went missing off Borneo island in rough seas, a top naval official said Monday.

The incident happened after the vessel set out for a routine sea patrol in the South China Sea on Sunday near Mengalum island off eastern Sabah state on Borneo island.

“Yes, it is true. Please pray for their safety,” navy chief Abdul Aziz Jaafar said in a Twitter message when asked about the boat’s disappearance.

The navy in a statement said that the missing gunboat was on its way to its operational area in Layang Layang atoll, which is part of the disputed Spratly islands in the South China Sea.

China claims almost all of the sea, a vital avenue for world trade that is also believed to harbor vast oil and gas reserves.

But its claims overlap in parts with those of Malaysia, as well as the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam and Taiwan.

Abdul Aziz said an intensive search and rescue operation has been launched, but bad weather was hampering the mission.

“Choppy waters and low rain clouds were making search and rescue operation for the combat boat CB204 by ships and the Beechcraft plane difficult,” he added.

The gunboat had departed from its base with another fast-attack craft KD Paus early Sunday, the New Straits Times said Monday.

Officials believe it lost contact with the base after being hit by strong waves, according to the newspaper.

The MalaysianNavy on Monday received a report that a floating boat was detected near an oil rig northeast from Mengalum Island.

Abdul Aziz tweeted on Monday that he received a report from an oil rig and has sent a vessel, KD Lekiu, to investigate.

“ERB West Oil Rig, located nine nautical miles northeast from Pulau Mengalum, reported that a floating boat was seen early this morning (Monday). KD Lekiu has been sent to investigate,” he tweeted.

Combat vessel CB204 lost contact with its base at 11.15am while cruising to islands off Sabah waters.

The vessel’s last known position was 20 nautical miles east of Mengalum Island.

Commanded by Lt Azri Bakar with seven crew members, CB204 departed Kota Kinabalu at about 5am with another naval ship, KD Paus.

At 10.30am, the Marine Region Headquarters received a call from KD Paus informing that the two vessels were turning back due to bad weather.