Five missing after ship sinks in the Taiwan Strait

Five Thai nationals were rescued and five are missing after a ship lost power in the Taiwan Strait, then sank while being towed to the Port of Kaohsiung last night, October 23.

The Seatran Ferry 12, a Tuvulu-registered passenger – vehicular ferry, had been purchased in Japan, and was en route to Thailand when the main engine and auxiliary engines failed at around 11:00 am, yesterday.

The ship’s crew contacted a shipping company and hired a tug to tow it to to the Port of Kaohsiung for repairs.

While undertow, and 29.6 nautical miles from the Port of Kaohsiung, the vessel suddenly flooded with water and was at risk of sinking. However, the satellite phone and radio were malfunctioning, and the crew could not call for help.

When the ship suddenly sank, an emergency position-indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) was automatically activated, and the distress signal was received by Taiwan Coast Guard at 10:53 pm.

According to a report in United Daily News, all 10 crew members were wearing lifejackets when the ship sank. Five of the crew were on the outer deck of the vessel, and five were on the bridge.

When the ship sank, the crew did not have time to get into the life raft. The five crew on the outer deck held hands to avoid losing contact as they fell into the sea.

Taiwan Coast Guard dispatched two patrol ships and two boats for a search and rescue operation. Sea conditions were described as very poor, with level 10 wind gusts and 4 meter swells.

The National Airborne Service Corps sent aircraft to assist in the search, and at 12:29 am, five crew members were spotted from the air, and rescued by the tug, which had remained on site to help with the search and rescue operation.

Taiwan Coast Guard located and retrieved an empty life raft at around 6:00 am this morning, but have found no signs of the five missing crew members.

Of the rescued crew members two had head injuries, and one suffered a broken toe. None to the injuries were life-threatening.

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