A boat carrying 31 people has gone missing off the Malaysian coast

A catamaran boat carrying 31 people, including at least 28 Chinese tourists, has gone missing off the Malaysian coast after departing the eastern state of Sabah on Saturday. The catamaran boat left Kota Kinabalu on Saturday at 09:00 local time (01:00 GMT) and was heading towards Pulau Mengalum, a popular tourist island. A distress call was received from the boat but contact was lost soon after.

It was bad weather and the search and rescue operations were difficult, according The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency. The search area covers 400 nautical square miles between Kota Kinabalu and Pulau Mengalum. It is not clear yet what caused the disappearance of the boat. The rescue team, including eight ships and two aircraft, has not found yet the missing vessel. "We are looking at strong winds and choppy waters, and have requested assistance from the air force to conduct an aerial search," Sabah and Labuan Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) deputy director Rahim Ramli said Sunday. The Consul-General of China's consulate general in Kota Kinabalu has expressed great concern and urged the consulate to take all the necessary rescue measures. The consulate also urged local government to increase the rescue efforts. China is the third-largest source of visitors to Malaysia.