TAIPEI: Two crew members have been confirmed dead and six are missing after a deadly brawl broke out on board a Taiwanese fishing vessel in a remote area of the Indian Ocean.
The fight broke out early Wednesday morning when the chief officer of the Wen Peng attacked two of his crew, according to Taiwan officials.
"A fight broke out when the chief officer hacked two of his crew to death in a disciplinary action dispute," the Taiwan fisheries department said in a statement Thursday (Feb 21), adding that 11 crew members were forced to jump overboard during the brawl.
The captain together with five other crew members managed to barricade themselves in a cabin and escaped hours later by jumping off the ship, which was 1,500 nautical miles northeast of Mauritius. They were rescued by vessels nearby.
A total of 12 including the captain, chief engineer and a fisheries department official are now onboard two Taiwanese fishing vessels and an Australian container ship which answered the distress call.
Six crew members who were forced into the waters during the brawl are still unaccounted for.
The standoff continued Thursday with the fisheries department saying four foreign seamen are still on board, including the chief officer and "three other injured foreign crew members".
A Taiwanese coast guard rescue ship has been dispatched but officials warned it would take 13 days to arrive.
Taiwan has one of the world's biggest tuna fishing fleets in the world but a poor record in its treatment of migrant workers, according to a 2016 report by the environmental group Greenpeace.
There are an estimated 160,000 migrant workers working on board Taiwanese fishing vessels, mostly from the Philippines and Indonesia.