Night SAR operations can endanger victims’ lives

Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) Sarawak director First Admiral Maritime Zin Azman Md Yunus speaks at the press conference in Telaga Air on Sun (Oct 3). Photo: Ghazali Bujang

KUCHING: The search and rescue (SAR) operation cannot be conducted at night as it will endanger the victims’ lives.

Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) Sarawak director First Admiral Maritime Zin Azman Md Yunus said this in response to Tourism, Arts, and Culture Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah who asked why the operations for the missing crews of a boat was postponed on Saturday at 6.30pm and not continued at nightfall.

“The most important matter in the (SAR) operations is rescuing the victims.

“If the operations were to continue in pitch black conditions, the risk of our marine vehicles hitting the victims is very high.

“That is why we will postpone it around 7 to 8pm and continue at the break of dawn,” Zin told the media on Sunday (Oct 3) at the Telaga Air public jetty.

On Saturday morning, eight fishermen, a skipper and a crew were reported after their fishing vessel capsized about two nautical miles off Pulau Satang Besar, Telaga Air.

After a report on the incident was received, a rescue boat operating around Santubong waters rushed to the scene to carry out the initial search operation.

“A search and rescue (SAR) forward base was later set up at the Telaga Air public jetty around noon and other rescue agencies were informed of the incident.

The search focused on the last known location, about two nautical miles up to 20 nautical miles from the waters of Pulau Satang.

Four marine vehicles were involved in the operation, namely, Maritime Rescue Boat 8, two Marine Police PSC 11 and PA 1 vessels and a Petra Jaya fire station boat.

The search was suspended at 6.30pm with no clues yet of the victims’ whereabouts.

After the incident, Zin also reminded the maritime community not to go out to sea if there was no urgency to do so.

If they had to go out to sea, they must sure that their boats were in good condition and all safety equipment was complete.

Aside from that, it would be great for them to have personal locator beacons which could alert the authorities and help pinpoint their exact locations, said Zin.

“Even though, the devices are quite pricey, they are very helpful for rescue agencies to detect any disasters at sea and rescue the victims,” he added

On Sunday at the Sarawak Cultural Village, Abdul Karim asked why the search teams did not continue their search after dark.

“The weather condition was good so why must there be office-hour time for the search when the local folks were still out there looking for the victims?

“Nine out of 10 victims were found around 1am by local fishermen in the area. The victim who’s still missing, Awang Omar Awang Hasmawi, is my cousin.

“If the local folks were able to continue their search until late, why can’t the search teams do so as well?” he questioned.

The minister added that there was a need to improve efficiency of the search and rescue (SAR) teams in locating missing victims at sea.

He also said no members of the Sarawak Coast Guard were seen joining the search teams in finding the victims.

“The government had spent billions on the Sarawak Coast Guard for their boats and yet, they were kept at the jetty when people needed them,” he said.