KUALA LUMPUR - Three Chinese passengers died and five are missing after a tourist boat sank in rough seas off eastern Malaysia, officials confirmed late on Sunday, with 22 people rescued following the shipwreck. Twenty Chinese tourists and two of the vessel's three crew members were rescued and sent to a hospital in Kota Kinabalu after the boat sank off Malaysia's Sabah state on Borneo island, according to Malaysian officials.

The third crew member has not yet been found, bringing the total number of missing to six. The sinking of the catamaran on Saturday, the first day of the Lunar New Year holiday, sparked a major air and sea search covering some 400 nautical square miles. The mission was halted on Sunday night due to bad weather, but will resume early Monday morning, an official from the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) said.

The boat left Saturday morning from the Sabah state capital Kota Kinabalu en route for Pulau Mengalum, an island known for its pristine beaches and dive sites.

The boat owner reported it missing on Saturday evening. The skipper and a crew member were found alive earlier Sunday off a nearby island, before the discovery of the other survivors. "According to the skipper, the boat was 'broken' after being hit by waves and sank," Ahmad Puzi Kahar, head of the MMEA, said in a statement.