Thai rescuers find five bodies, one survivor after warship sinks

Officials say 76 people have been rescued, five have been found dead and 24 are still missing.

Strong winds and high waves caused water to enter the ship on Sunday, knocking out its electrical system and making control of the ship virtually impossible [Royal Thai Navy/Anadolu]

Rescuers have found one more survivor and recovered five bodies from a Thai warship that sank over the weekend in the Gulf of Thailand, navy officials said, as hopes faded for the two dozen people still missing.

The HTMS Sukhothai, a corvette in service for 35 years, sank on Sunday night in rough seas with 105 people on board. Officials have acknowledged that there were not enough life jackets for all those on board.

The navy said an earlier tally of 106 people on board was incorrect because one sailor failed to join the journey.

Navy commander Admiral Cherngchai Chomcherngpat said initially at a news conference in Bangkok that two people had been rescued on Tuesday, but later said he had received updated information that only one person was alive and that five bodies had been recovered.

According to those figures, 76 people have now been rescued, five have been found dead and 24 are still unaccounted for.

The most recent survivor, identified as Chananyu Kansriya, was found floating in the sea at about 2pm local time (07:00 GMT) on Tuesday and was picked up by a passing cargo ship, according to the navy’s rescue coordination centre at Bangsaphan in Prachuap Khiri Khan province, near the scene of the accident. A navy frigate was bringing him back to shore.

Vice Admiral Pichai Lorchusakul, commander of the 1st Naval Area Command, told reporters that Chananyu was in weak condition and would receive medical treatment on the frigate, which has facilities akin to a mobile hospital.

He was quoted by the Thai Rath newspaper as saying search efforts had been accelerated, but the missing could not be expected to survive in the sea for longer than two days.

The navy has deployed four large ships, two maritime patrol aircraft, two helicopters and a drone, and the air force has contributed one plane and one helicopter. Small boats could not be used because the sea remained extremely choppy, navy officers said.

The search is gradually moving south to take into account the currents, Captain Kraipich Korawee-Paparwit, commander of one of the rescue ships, told Thai PBS television.

Strong winds and high waves caused seawater to enter the ship on Sunday evening, knocking out its electrical system and making control of the ship virtually impossible. Other naval vessels rushed to the scene, about 32km (20 miles) offshore, to assist the stricken vessel, but could not do much because of the poor sea conditions. Because the ship could not be controlled, more water entered, causing it to list and sink.

Thailand’s Meteorological Department had issued a weather advisory for the general area just a few hours before the accident, saying that waves in the Gulf of Thailand were expected to be two to four metres (7-14 feet) high. It suggested that all ships “proceed with caution” and warned small craft not to go to sea until Tuesday.

Survivors interviewed by Thai television said there were not enough life jackets because the ship was carrying guests in addition to its normal crew, which the navy website said was 87 sailors and officers.

Navy Commander Cherngchai confirmed there were not enough life jackets on board in comments to PPTV television.

“This operation, they added staff from the Marine Corps and Air and Coastal Defence Command, about 30 people. This is why I think there were not enough life jackets,” he said.

Source: AP