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Thai navy hunts for 31 missing marines after warship sinks

More than 100 people were on board the HTMS Sukhothai when it sank in choppy waters in the Gulf of Thailand.

Thai navy hunts for 31 missing marines after warship sinks

This handout photo taken on Dec 18, 2022 and released on Dec 19 by the Royal Thai Navy shows the HTMS Sukhotha warship on its side before sinking in the Gulf of Thailand, off the coast of Bang Saphan district in Prachuab Kiri Khan province. (Photo: AFP/Handout/ROYAL THAI NAVY)

BANGKOK: Thailand's military deployed warships and helicopters on Monday (Dec 19) to try to locate 31 marines missing after a corvette sank overnight in choppy waters in the Gulf of Thailand, the navy said.

Three navy vessels and two helicopters were sent to find the missing off Prachuap Khiri Khan province, south of Bangkok, after the HTMS Sukhothai warship suffered an engine malfunction and went down just before midnight about 20 nautical miles off the coast.

According to the navy, strong winds and waves saw seawater entering the vessel, resulting in damage to its electric system and essential power being lost. 

"Once the main and subsidiary machines stopped working, the vessel could not be controlled," the navy reported on its Facebook page on Monday. As a result, water started to enter the ship rapidly, causing it to tip. 

The search and rescue operation began on Sunday night. At 8.40pm local time, one of the three navy vessels dispatched to rescue 106 people on board the Sukhothai reached the scene. However, it could not carry out the operation due to strong winds and choppy waters.

The warship continued to tip further and sank just after midnight. By that time, two private boats and one oil tanker named had arrived at the scene to provide additional support. 

So far, 75 people have been rescued and 31 others remain missing, the navy said.

Marines being rescued after HTMS Sukhothai warship sank in the Gulf of Thailand on Dec 19, 2022. (Photo: Twitter/@prroyalthainavy)

The navy posted images and video footage on its Twitter account, showing a group of personnel in orange vests in a black inflatable raft moving away from a ship in darkness as waves swelled around it.

It was not immediately clear how many rafts had been deployed.

The Sukhothai, a United States-built corvette in use since 1987, was hit by strong waves on Sunday, forcing it to tilt to one side before becoming flooded with seawater, navy spokesperson Admiral Pogkrong Monthardpalin said.

A picture shared by the navy showed the grey vessel flipped over onto its side, while another image on a scanner screen showed the bow of the ship and a gun turret poking out above the waterline as it went down.

Preparations are being made to salvage the sunk warship, said the navy.

Source: Reuters/CNA/rc


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