Navy focused on rescue mission, salvage later

Navy focused on rescue mission, salvage later

One missing sailor rescued alive Tuesday, six found dead, 23 still missing

HTMS Sukhothai at an annual military drill at Sattahip Naval Base in Chon Buri in March this year, when it launched torpedoes. The corvette sank on Sunday. (Photo: Apichart Jinakul)
HTMS Sukhothai at an annual military drill at Sattahip Naval Base in Chon Buri in March this year, when it launched torpedoes. The corvette sank on Sunday. (Photo: Apichart Jinakul)

The Royal Thai Navy is focused on rescuing the sailors still missing at sea after HTMS Sukhothai sank during a storm in the Gulf of Thailand off the coast of Prachuap Khiri Khan on Sunday, navy spokesman Adm Pokkrong Monthatpalin said on Tuesday.

On Monday, 31 of the sunken corvette's complement of 106 sailors and marines were initially reported missing. The number reduced to 30 when one was later rescued by HTMS Kraburi in Prachuap Khiri Khan province.

Another seven were found on Tuesday in the area where the shipwent down. One was rescued alive, and six were dead, navy chief Adm Choengchai Chomchoengpaet said. He expressed his regret over the death of the crew members and his condolences to their families.

Twenty-three were still missing.

The navy chief said His Majesty the King had placed the injured sailors under royal patronage, and Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn Krom Phra Srisavangavadhana had provided medicines and other items for the injured.

Adm Chonlathit Nawanukhro, the navy's chief-of-staff, said that as of 3pm on Tuesday, a total of 81 crew members had been rescued. The bodies of the dead were being sent for verification of identity.

He said the navy pinned its hopes on all the remaining crew members remaining alive. Adm Chonlathit thanked navies from other countries for their offers of help in the search for the missing sailors. Another was reported to have been found on Tuesday, but this was not confirmed.

Adm Pokkrong said that right now the navy was concentrating on the search, hoping to rescue all of the missing men. After that mission was completed, it would look into refloating the ship, which would involve setting up a technical committee for assessment and planning.

If the rescue mission dragged on, a salvage operation could be conducted simultaneously. An investigation would find out if any oil had leaked from the ship into the sea, and whether any of the ship's operating systems had been damaged.

The navy spokesman said it was fortunate there were no heavy weaponry such as rockets, harpoon missile launchers, torpedoes or large ammunition on the ship when it sank.

HTMS Sukhothai departed from Sattahip naval base on Saturday, on a scheduled patrol. It was also heading for Hat Sai Ree beach in Chumphon province to attend a ceremony to mark the birthday of the late Krom Luang Chumphon Khet-udomsak, dubbed "father of the Thai navy", on Dec 19, 1880.

On the way, the vessel encountered a storm with huge wind-whipped waves. It was flooded and sank on Sunday night.

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