Malaysia’s coast guard said Monday they had retrieved eight bodies after a boat capsized off the southern state of Johor at the weekend with another 20 people believed to be missing.
Local media reported that the boat carrying 62 people — all Indonesians and thought to be illegal immigrants — capsized due to strong waves late on Saturday night.
So far, 34 passengers have been rescued and a search was ongoing, a coast guard official told foreign media.
“I could not save her although she was sitting on my lap at the time of the incident,” a rescued man who lost his pregnant wife was quoted as saying in The Star.
“It all seemed like a horrible nightmare.”
Those rescued have been handed over to the state’s immigration department.
The English daily cited an immigration department official as saying that the Indonesians were believed to be making their way back to their own country.
The official added that those rescued, and without proper documentation, would be deported and that the case was under investigation.
Johor state has a long coastline and shares a maritime border with Indonesia, making illegal entry easy into Malaysia, the third largest economy in Southeast Asia.
About two million Indonesians, many of them working illegally, now live in Malaysia, generally employed in labour intensive jobs.
Deadly accidents are not uncommon, with illegal migrants typically attempting the crossing in rickety vessels and often at night to avoid detection.
Earlier this year, the bodies of 18 Indonesians were retrieved after a boat capsized in rough seas off Johor.