KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) _ A cruise ship caught fire and sank off the western coast of Malaysia early Friday as authorities scrambled to rescue about 1,000 passengers.

It was not immediately clear how many people might be missing from the Bahamian-registered Sun Vista.

A marine police officer in the central state of Perak, who asked not to be identified, said the ship sank at about early in the morning about 28 miles from Perak state in the Strait of Malacca.

``We can confirm that the boat's already capsized. It has sunk to the bottom,'' the officer said. He said police had received reports that the engine had caught fire.

He said the Sun Vista had set sail from the central Malaysian city of Malacca and was headed to Phuket, a resort city in Thailand.

The officer said marine police with Malaysian naval vessels were rescuing passengers, some of whom have already been taken to the port on Penang, an island off of the west coast.

Witnesses at the port in Penang said ambulances and some 20 tour buses were waiting to take victims to hospitals.