Twenty-three missing after a ferry overloaded with holidaymakers capsized in a Malaysian river

Eurasia News

Bakun Dam, Malaysia: Police in Malaysia say 23 people are missing after a ferry overloaded with holidaymakers capsized in a remote jungle river in Borneo. The Dispatch News Desk (DND) reported.

The boat, which set off at the Bakun dam, is believed to have hit a rock on Tuesday while navigating one of many rapids on Malaysia’s longest river, the Rajang, in the state of Sarawak. Sarawak police chief Acryl Sani Abdullah says 181 people have been rescued, but 23 are still unaccounted for after the accident.

The boat was allowed to carry a maximum of 74 passengers. The overturned boat remains in the river and there are fears that some people may have been trapped inside. Most passengers were believed to be heading home for the coming weekend’s Gawai festival.

It is one of the most important festivals celebrated by Borneo’s indigenous tribes and other ethnic groups, with thousands travelling to meet family and friends for the annual occasion. Boat operators often come under intense pressure from travellers demanding to be allowed on board so they can reach their destinations in time for the festival.

“The operators are sometimes threatened with assault if they refuse to ferry passengers,” Belaga police chief Bakar Anak Sebau said. Thirteen people died in the last major boat accident in Sarawak two years ago.