Crew of Malaysian vessel rescued

KOTA KINABALU - Seven crew members of a Malaysian vessel survived a 10-day ordeal in a life raft at sea after the tugboat they were in was hijacked by pirates.

The crew, comprising two Malaysians, two Indonesians and three Bangladeshis, were rescued in Vietnam near the Lesser Amboyana Island on Monday in an operation involving three countries.

All were in good health according to Malaysian authorities and Vietnam's Rescue Coordination Department yesterday.

The crew were Bangladeshi skipper Khorsed Alam, his compatriots Md Elias Uddin and Damri Marawat Napitupulu, Indonesians Supardi and Sholehuddin and Malaysians Lau Kah Chong and Yusseri Yusuf.

A barge, loaded with power generation equipment owned by Tenaga Nasional Berhad, towed by a tugboat from Langkawi towards Tawau was also recovered, southeast of the South Islet in Cagayancillo in Palawan, Philippines.

A source from the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency confirmed the rescue of the crew and the recovery of the barge, adding that arrangements were being made to bring back the seven men as well as the barge to Malaysia.

The crew left Langkawi on April 12 en route to Tawau where they were expected to arrive on Friday. They set sail using a tugboat, Wantas 6, and the barge, Wantas VII. They last made contact about 1am near Batam Island in Indonesia on April 16.

It was learnt that 15 to 20 pirates, believed to be Indonesians from Sulawesi, hijacked the tugboat off Tanjung Datu in Sarawak about 11pm on April 17.

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