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British man and 14-year-old boy among four divers missing off Malaysian island

Hours after search party started, group has still not been found

Sam Hancock
Wednesday 06 April 2022 16:49 BST
The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) has activated a search and rescue mission
The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) has activated a search and rescue mission (MMEA)

A 46-year-old man and 14-year-old boy from the UK are among four European divers missing nine miles off a Malaysian island.

The British pair went missing during a diving training exercise off Pulau Tokong Sanggol, near the coastal town of Mersing in the country’s southeast, on Wednesday afternoon. An 18-year-old French woman from France and a 35-year-old Norwegian woman were also in the group.

Malaysia’s Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) swiftly launched a search and rescue (SAR) operation in a bid to locate the group.

Boats from the coastguard, the police and the fisheries department set out at around 2.45pm local time (6.45am GMT), after information was received via the Putrajaya Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, senior coastguard official Nurul Hizam Zakaria said in a statement.

“The divers were reported missing by the boat captain who took them out to sea,” Mr Zakaria, the Johor director of MMEA, said.

“A forward operating base has been set up at the Mersing District Council public jetty.”

As of 4pm local time, the divers had still not been found, he added.

Pulau Tokong Sanggol, the island from which the group went missing, is around nine nautical miles (16.6km) from Tanjung Leman in Mersing.

The area is popular with foreign and domestic tourists due to its resorts dotted along the coast and nearby islands, renowned for diving.

Although such incidents are rare in Malaysia, last year the body of 31-year-old Karen Chong was found by local fishermen days after she went on a diving trip near the island of Pulau Satang.

She had been diving with a group before going off to complete a solo journey on the day she went missing, local media reported at the time.

In 2013, a British tourist died when she was struck by a passing boat’s propeller while diving off resort islands in the South China Sea.

Malaysia’s borders reopened to foreign tourists on 1 April after being closed for two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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