MERSING – Family members of the two missing Singaporean kayakers verified the personal belongings of their loved ones on Wednesday (Aug 14) morning.
A fisherman had discovered the green kayak belonging to Madam Puah Geok Tin, 57, and Mr Tan Eng Soon, 62, a day earlier, some 80 nautical miles away from where the duo were separated from their group in the Endau waters at Mersing last Thursday.
Their belongings were found intact in the waterproof bags packed inside the kayak, but there was no sign of the pair.
At about 11am on Wednesday, Madam Puah’s son Mr Louis Pang, and Mr Tan’s wife Madam Kwan Yoke Yee entered a room at the Penyabong Jetty in Mersing to verify personal items such as wallets and hygiene items which had been transported there.
Madam Kwan, 58, was emotional upon exiting the room. Mr Pang, 24, who offered to speak on behalf of both their families, asked that reporters not take photos of the belongings.
At a press conference held at noon, Malaysian authorities said search operations would cover the area between Endau, Mersing to Berserah Kuantan, Pahang, and involve four helicopters, one aeroplane, three vessels and seven boats.
The air search area would be expanded from 900 square nautical miles to 1,200 nautical miles, said Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) officials at the Mersing Search and Rescue Centre located in the Penyabong Jetty.
Meanwhile, the sea search area would be reduced from 600 square nautical miles to 451 square nautical miles.
Land search operations would cover 60km in total, and the operations would involve 119 personnel in all.
The MMEA also said the families requested for the authorities to search nearby islands, and that boats would be sent there.
Relatives and friends of the missing kayakers had gathered at the jetty canteen since daybreak to wait for news of their loved ones.
The families saw a glimmer of hope after more than four days of waiting when the fisherman contacted Mr Tan’s family using his phone – found among the belongings retrieved from the kayak.
Madam Puah’s husband, Mr Peng Mun Kit, told The Straits Times on Tuesday that the families had rushed over to the local authorities at the search and rescue centre located in the jetty the moment the fisherman contacted them.
“We passed the phone to (the local authorities) so that they could speak to them in Malay,” said Mr Peng, 56.
Mr Peng was hopeful, telling ST that there was a chance that the duo could be in the vicinity.
His son, Mr Pang, on the other hand, felt conflicted over the news, saying there was hope but it was not “really a good sign” that the kayak was found without the paddlers.
Most of the daily search and rescue efforts end at around dusk, and resume at daybreak the next morning.
Mr Pang on Tuesday posted a picture of the sunset taken from the Penyabong Jetty on Instagram, writing: “115 hours… Watching the sunset never felt this agonising.”
“Dear Mummy, please come back to us.”