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Thai navy searches for 31 sailors after vessel sinks

BANGKOK (AFP) – Thai military frigates and helicopters were searching yesterday for 31 sailors after a naval vessel sank, with dozens of others having been hauled from choppy waters.

The HTMS Sukhothai capsized late on Sunday night as it was patrolling the Gulf of Thailand, about 37 kilometres off the nation’s southeastern coast.

Some sailors survived by jumping into a life raft at night, according to images shared by the Royal Thai Navy, which said 75 people had been rescued.

However, 31 sailors were still missing yesterday, according to spokesperson for the navy Admiral Pogkrong Montradpalin.

The search and rescue operation involved two Seahawk helicopters, two frigates and one amphibious ship, according to a navy statement.

A statement from the Royal Thai Air Force later yesterday said they were also assisting in the operation, without giving details.

Rescue crew gather at a makeshift rescue operation site during the search for survivors. PHOTO: AFP

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said the cause of the incident was being investigated.

“I am following the news closely, about five people are seriously injured,” he added in a statement. The navy later said the search was still ongoing over an area measuring around 20 miles by 15 miles.

“The operation will also cover the areas where the latest crew members were found,” the spokesperson said.

The vessel is believed to have run into trouble after its electronics system was damaged, according to the navy. “The ship’s operating systems stopped working, causing the ship to lose control,” the spokesperson said. One image shared by the navy showed the vessel capsized, while a video showed a rescue boat alongside the ship in rough waters.

Other images shared on the navy’s Twitter account showed men wrapped in blankets following their rescue. Some of those rescued were being airlifted to a hospital in Sattahip, while uninjured crew would be taken to a naval base.

In one clip captured by local media, an unnamed crew member said he had been forced to stay afloat for three hours before being rescued.

“The waves were quite high, about three metres when the ship sank,” he said, describing how one of the rescue vessels could not get close enough because of the waves.


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