KUCHING: Twelve fishermen had a close shave and managed to survive yesterday night after their fishing boat was battered by bad weather and rough seas.
Earlier, the boat operated by a skipper and a crew together with 10 fishermen went out to sea around 1pm from the Sarawak Boat Club Jetty to Lundu waters.
Later in the evening, the weather changed and the boat suffered a leak on its bottom right near the waters of Pulau Satang.
Following that, the Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) was immediately alerted for help around 7.20pm.
According to MMEA Sarawak First Admiral Maritime Zin Azman Md Yunud in a statement, a search and rescue (SAR) operation was later initiated to locate the boat and its passengers, about 14 nautical miles northwest of Pulau Satang.
The agency’s Kilat 22 boat was deployed to the scene together with the Marine Police’s boats.
“However, the windy weather conditions with speeds of 10 to 20km per hour as well as rough sea conditions made the search difficult.
“However, we managed to reach the skipper via VHF radio around 12.20am.
“They were informed that the boat is safe and is en route to Sarawak Boat Club jetty escorted by the Marine Police’s boats,” he said.
Zin Azman added that all the victims, who were unharmed, arrived safely at the boat club’s jetty at 1.40am.
According to the skipper, the weather at the fishing spot suddenly shifted with waves that reached three metres high, battering the boat with the terrible weather and choppy seas.
“The boat had suffered a leak on the bottom right and the cause of the leak could not be ascertained.
“The skipper reported that he patched up the leaky area of the boat with a cloth and a sponge mattress and used a VHF radio to make an emergency call for help.
“A local boat from Samariang was the first to come and offer assistance,” he said.
The fishing boat’s safety equipment examination revealed that it was outfitted with 14 life jackets and four safety buoys.
After the victims arrived safely at shore, the search operation wrapped up.
Meanwhile, the general public is urged to check that the boat is in excellent condition and to postpone any plans to sail out to sea in the event of bad weather.
Should it be urgent to go to sea, they should always put safety first by wearing a life jacket and bringing a Personnel Located Beacon (PLB) device to help the rescue team get to the emergency location quickly.