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13 dead, 2 missing in fishing vessel collision
Published : Dec 3, 2017 - 09:23
Updated : Dec 3, 2017 - 09:23
A fishing vessel carrying 22 people capsized off the coast of Incheon early Sunday morning, leaving 13 dead and two missing.

According to the coast guard, the 9.77-ton boat carrying two crew members and 20 passengers collided with a 336-ton tanker near Yeongheung Bridge while trying to pass a narrow channel at around 6 a.m.
Rescue operation for the capsized fishing vessel. Yonhap

The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said 20 of the 22 people had been located, with 13 of them dead. The seven others were taken to five different nearby hospitals. 

Two, including the captain, were still missing.

None of the tanker’s four crew members were injured, officials said. 

Hwang Jun-hyun, chief of Incheon Maritime Police station, told the media that the rescue team brought a crane barge at around 4:40 p.m. and lifted the vessel out of the water but failed to find the missing two. 

“We will continue with a night search,” said Hwang during a press briefing.

The rescue team arrived at the scene at 6:42 a.m., 33 minutes after the first report. Thirteen passengers were still inside the sinking vessel at that time, while seven were drifting in the water. The report was made by one of the passengers of the fishing boat at around 6:09 a.m.

Officials also said the vessel was officially registered as a charter boat to receive fishing guests and had received permission from authorities to depart from Jindu Port on Yeongjongdo on Sunday morning. 

Authorities said the ship had not violated any maritime regulations. All passengers, including crew members, were wearing life jackets, they said. 

One of seven survivors told the media that “everything happened so suddenly” and that passengers were not aware of another vessel approaching because it was pitch-dark in the morning. 

“As soon as the captain said the vessel was going to hit (the other vessel), we were thrown into the sea. I held onto floating Styrofoam waiting to be rescued,” a survivor said in an interview.

The presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said President Moon Jae-in was briefed about the incident at 7:01 a.m. and ordered maritime police and the Navy to do their best for the rescue operation.

“The president ordered (them) to take all necessary and quick medical actions, as well as to contact families of all identified passengers,” Cheong Wa Dae said, adding that a ministerial-level meeting would be held if necessary.

At least five helicopters and 19 boats were mobilized for the search and rescue operation. At least 20 rescue members from the Navy’s Ship Salvage Unit were dispatched to the site. 

A witness told Korean media outlet YTN that sporadic rainfall near the site may have contributed to the collision. Maritime police said there had been rain from 3 a.m. Sunday. Sea waves also rose to a height of 1.5 meters at the site, but further investigation is needed, officials said. 

By Kim Da-sol (ddd@heraldcorp.com)
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