Thirty-eight passengers, including three foreign tourists, and two boatmen scrambled to safety when a tourist boat, which was heading for Pulau Perhentian caught fire, about 30 minutes after leaving Kuala Besut, today.
As the fire grew quickly the passengers and boatmen had to jump into the sea before they were rescued by local fishing boats in the 10.30am incident.
Two passengers, Arman Arshad, 34, and Nirisan Atan, 38, both with a tour group from Melaka, were injured in the incident and admitted to the Besut Hospital.
Recounting his experience, the Melaka tour leader, Mohd Ramlan Mohd Jadi,42, said he was seated at the back of the boat and smelled burning oil coming from the engine and informed the boatman.
The boatman and his assistant checked on the engine and decided to continuethe journey before it caught fire, he told reporters at the hospital.
“The boatman should have decided to turn back to the Kuala Besut jetty as the boat was deemed unsafe.
“He did nothing to the engine and decided to take the risk to continue the journey,” said Mohd Ramlan, who headed a group of tourists from Melaka,including 17 children aged between three and 15.
Arman said as the engine caught fire, the passengers put on life jackets before they were told to jump into the sea one after another beginning with children and grabbed a rope provided by the boatman.
“We had a tough time calming the children as we prayed for help to arrive. We were rescued by fishing boats 10 minutes later,” he said. Another passenger from Melaka, Nirisan Atan, 38, from Melaka, who had scalded both hands was also admitted to the hospital. Besut police chief Supt Kamaruddin Mohd Zakaria, when contacted, said the police would investigate the incident.