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Sri Lanka intensifies search for naval boat with 6 on board

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lankan authorities have stepped up a search for a navy boat that went missing a month ago along with six sailors as they patrolled the Indian Ocean off the coast of the island, a naval spokesman said Saturday.

Navy spokesman Capt. Indika de Silva said the sailors ventured off the southern coast of Sri Lanka on a regular patrol on Sept. 16 and the navy had lost communication with the boat a day later.

He said the navy has since deployed ships to locate the boat and the search has intensified with the deployment of air force planes.

Silva said they suspect the boat suffered an engine problem and drifted out to sea after hitting a heavy current.

“Until now we haven’t been able to find the boat or the sailors,” Silva said.

The Sri Lankan navy conducts regular patrols to combat smuggling. In recent months, the Navy has successfully conducted several missions targeting narcotics and human traffickers. Dozens of people have been arrested while trying to illegally migrate to Australia, along with traffickers who were carrying large quantities of narcotics.

In May and April, the Navy seized more than 1,000 kilograms of heroin smuggled into ships.

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