KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — At least 10 people were killed and 29 others missing after a boat carrying at least 60 migrants sank in the South China Sea before dawn on Wednesday, Malaysian officials said.
The boat capsized in bad weather around 4:30 a.m. off the coast of Tanjung Balau, a beach town in the southeastern Malaysian state of Johor, a spokesman for the country’s Maritime Enforcement Agency said.
Twenty-one people were rescued after the agency deployed a helicopter and two boats for a search-and-rescue operation just before 9 a.m., the spokesman, Nurul Hizam Zakaria, said.
Bernama, Malaysia’s national news agency, posted a photo on Twitter that it said showed people on a beach recovering the capsized boat from the surf.
The Malaysian authorities did not disclose the identities or nationalities of the victims. Mr. Nurul Hizam referred to them as “illegal migrants,” a term that Malaysian officials sometimes use to describe refugees seeking asylum.
Boat accidents have been common in the region, many of them involving Rohingya refugees.
Thousands of them have attempted the perilous crossing by boat to Malaysia from Myanmar, where they face ethnic persecution, or from Bangladesh, where they often live in poverty. Over the years, Malaysian officials have sometimes prevented such refugee boats from docking. Last year, one of them was rescued by the Bangladeshi Coast Guard, and officers found hundreds of malnourished and dehydrated people who had been kept in the boat’s hold by human traffickers.
Hadi Azmi reported from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Mike Ives from Seoul, South Korea.