One dead, more than 20 missing after boat sinks in Gulf of Thailand

45
3
One dead, more than 20 missing after boat sinks in Gulf of Thailand

Two Cambodian crew members abandoned their boat with 41 Chinese nationals on board as it sank in the Gulf of Thailand, leaving at least one person dead and more than 20 missing, local authorities say.

The small wooden fishing vessel foundered near Cambodia's Koh Tang island on Thursday morning.

Video from a rescue boat showed many on board crowded at the bow as the stern began to dip under the water.

Rescue workers yelled that more help was on its way and tossed life jackets and life-saving buoys toward the ramshackle boat as it slowly began to list to the right and slip below the surface, sending the passengers spilling into the water.

Eighteen people were rescued at the time, but 23 were reported missing. One of them, a man, was found alive on Friday and a woman was found dead, according to provincial government spokesperson Kheang Phearom.

Photos provided by local police show the rescuers standing on a pier on the Cambodian mainland wearing garish holiday clothes, but it was not clear whether they had been provided to them after they were pulled out of the water.

The provincial police chief, Major-General Chuon Narin, told local media that the group of passengers had set off from the Chinese port of Guangzhou on September 11 on a speedboat, and had been transferred on September 17 to the Cambodian fishing boat in international waters.

The boat had been close to its destination in the Cambodian province of Sihanoukville when its engine stopped and it began to sink, he said.

Another Cambodian boat arrived and rescued the two Cambodian crew, leaving the Chinese passengers to fend for themselves.

The two Cambodians were arrested and are being questioned by the police.

It was not immediately clear why the Chinese nationals were being brought to Cambodia, but Cambodian National Police deputy chief General Chhay Sinarith said last month that authorities had discovered numerous illegal online schemes luring workers to the country.

In the most recent incident to come to light, Malaysia's foreign minister brought 24 nationals home from Cambodia two weeks ago after they were rescued from human traffickers.

Last month, Taiwan's government said 333 of its citizens were stuck in Cambodia after being lured by crime groups promising high wages for tech jobs.

In Beijing, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told reporters that his government was in close communication with Cambodian authorities about the incident.

Cambodian authorities wanted to enlist the help of private boat operators in the area, offering a reward of 2 million riel about $740 for every rescue.

Survivor Chengui Sheng told authorities that there had been 38 men and three women on board when the ship began to sink at 10: 30 am on Thursday, according to Kheang Phearom.

The people rescued have been taken to a nearby Cambodian naval base, he said.