31 sailors missing after Thailand warship capsizes

By Rek Hanibal Published on December 20, 2022
31 sailors missing after Thailand warship capsizes

HTMS Sukhothai sank after water flooded its power controls on Sunday night. Images shared by the navy showed some crew who survived in a life raft.

On Monday, authorities said they had rescued 75 sailors, but 31 were still missing in rough seas.

Search crews worked through the night to find survivors, with the operation continuing on Monday with air force assistance.

The navy also announced an investigation into the cause of the disaster.

"This has rarely happened in our force's history, especially to a ship still in active use," spokesman Admiral Pogkrong Monthardpalin.

Footage shared by the navy on Twitter showed crew members wrapped in blankets and receiving treatment after they had been rescued. Some were being airlifted to hospital. 

Other images showed sailors from the Sukhothai in a life raft, having jumped from the sinking vessel. 

One unnamed crew member said he had been in the water for several hours before he was rescued.

"The waves were quite high, about three metres, when the ship sank," he said in a clip shared on local media. "I put on the life jacket and jumped. I swam for three hours."

Officials said the ship went down after it took on water, which flooded its hull and short-circuited its power room.

With the power lost, the crew battled to retain control of the ship, which listed onto its side before sinking around 23:30 local time Sunday (16:30 GMT).

The ship had been on patrol 32km (20 miles) east of Bang Saphan, in the Prachuap Khiri Khan province, when it got caught in the storm on Sunday.

Dramatic pictures posted on the Thai Navy's Twitter account show the vessel listing onto its side and backup rescue ships trying to find survivors in choppy waters.

Three naval ships and helicopters were sent to assist, but only the warship HTMS Kraburi reached the vessel before it sank. 

The frigate picked up most of the Sukhothai's crew, the navy said. Sailors wearing life jackets were found in the water and life rafts. The navy has disclosed scant detail on their condition. Local media published pictures showing medical personnel at the dock taking crew members off in stretchers. 

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha released a statement on Monday confirming officials were investigating the disaster. 

"I am following the news closely - about five people are seriously injured," he said.

Rek Hanibal

Rek Hanibal

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