Navy ship sinks in storm, 31 sailors missing
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Navy ship sinks in storm, 31 sailors missing

Cargo ship also reported to have sunk in the storm

HTMS Sukhothai lists on its side before sinking off Bang Saphan district, Prachuap Khiri Khan, on Sunday night. (Photo: Royal Thai Navy)
HTMS Sukhothai lists on its side before sinking off Bang Saphan district, Prachuap Khiri Khan, on Sunday night. (Photo: Royal Thai Navy)

An air and sea search continued on Monday for 31 missing sailors from HTMS Sukhothai, which sank in a storm in the Gulf of Thailand late on Sunday night.

Reports carried by several news outlets that 10 of the missing men had been found and one was dead were denied by the navy. It appeared more than one ship had sunk in the storm. The reported navy survivors found by a patrol boat were crew from a cargo ship. 

HTMS Sukhothai, a Rattanakosin class corvette, sank during a storm off the coast of Prachuap Khiri Khan.

Most of the 106 crew were rescued and safe, but 31 were missing.  All were believed to be wearing life jackets. A  search began immediately and Dornier aircraft and Seahawk helicopters joined the rescue operation on Monday morning 

A bulletin issued by the Thailand maritime Enforcement command at 12.40pm said 10 missing ship's crew had been found and rescued from the sea by the patrol boat Pattaravarin 88, while one was dead. 

They were widely reported to be missing sailors from HTMS Sukhothai. The navy denied the reports. The search for the missing sailors from the corvette was continuing. Details of the other vessel that sank were not known. One report said it was the Anuphum, a freighter.

HTMS Sukhothai sank off Prachuap Khiri Khan about 11.30pm on Sunday, navy spokesman Adm Pokkrong Monthatpalin said.

The corvette was on patrol about 20 nautical miles offshore from Bang Saphan district, Prachuap Khiri Khan province. It was pounded by high waves during the storm and heeled over about 60 degrees to starboard, causing seawater to pour into the ship.

A power blackout ensued. The main engine stopped functioning and the ship floundered out of control. More water flowed into the vessel, which began listing severely.

The navy launched an immediate rescue, dispatching HTMS Angthong, HTMS Bhumibol Adulyadej, HTMS Kraburi and two helicopters with rescue equipment to the scene.

HTMS Kraburi was first to arrive and began rescuing crew members from the sinking ship and from the sea. HTMS Sukhothai finally sank about 11.30pm.  

A report on the rescue operation issued by the navy at 7am on Monday said 78 of the 106 crew on board the corvette had been brought to the port of Bang Saphan in Prachuap Khiri Khan province. Three of them were seriously injured. The rest had not yet arrived.

However, a later Navy tweet and government statement gave the number of rescued officers as 75 out of the 106 on board, with 31 still missing as of noon. Search and rescue efforts were still underway. 

HTMS Sukhothai was built by Tacoma Boatbuilding Company, in Tacoma, Washington, USA, and commissioned on Feb 19, 1987. It had been in operation for nearly 36 years. It was equipped for air defence, sea combat and anti-submarine operations.

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