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Search launched for three missing European divers off Malaysian island

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By Euronews  with AP, AFP
The search and rescue operation is taking place off the coast of Johor's Mersing.
The search and rescue operation is taking place off the coast of Johor's Mersing.   -   Copyright  Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency via AP

Malaysian authorities are searching for three European nationals who disappeared while diving off a southern island.

A 46-year-old British man, his 14-year-old Dutch son, and an 18-year-old French woman have been reported missing.

Malaysian authorities rescued their Norwegian dive instructor earlier on Thursday after the search was launched.

The group had been diving on Wednesday afternoon at an island off the town of Mersing in southern Johor state, an area popular with tourists. An alert was sounded after the four divers failed to surface after an hour.

Kristine Grodem, a 35-year-old registered diving instructor, was picked up by a passing boat around 40 kilometres away from the dive site and was airlifted to a hospital, officials said.

The Johor director of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency said Grodem was found safe with full diving gear and was in stable condition without any serious injuries.

She had been training the other divers to help them obtain official licenses, the official added.

Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency via AP
Norwegian diving instructor Kristine Grodem was rescued early on Thursday.Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency via AP

The search for the three missing Europeans was suspended on Wednesday night due to poor visibility but is set to resume on Friday.

District police chief Cyril Edward Nuing said Grodem told investigators that the group had surfaced after about 40 minutes and began a second dive.

The group then reportedly surfaced again due to rough water conditions but was unable to attract the boat's attention after drifting away in strong currents.

“Based on her account, the three others managed to surface," Nuing said.

"With their equipment, their full gear and their experience, we believe there is a strong chance of finding them alive."

Johor police chief Kamarul Zaman Mamat said the diving boat's captain tested positive for drugs and has been detained for further investigation.

Johor Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar has suspended all diving activities off Mersing pending an investigation into the incident.