South Korea fishing boat sinks in Antarctic ocean; 22 feared dead
WELLINGTON: A South Korean fishing boat sank in the Antarctic Ocean's frigid waters Monday, with 22 sailors feared killed in the open sea where vessels trawl for deepwater fish.
Five sailors were confirmed dead and 20 survivors were rescued shortly after the 614-ton vessel went down some 1,400 miles (2,250 kilometers) south of New Zealand, about halfway to Antarctica, South Korea's Foreign Ministry and coast guard said. Seventeen sailors were missing.
Anyone who fell into such waters would typically be dead in 10 minutes without special suits or lifejackets, though nearby fishing boats searched frantically in hopes that some may be in a life raft, New Zealand's rescue coordination center said.
"We were fortunate that there were a number of vessels in the general area (where the boat sank), so they were able to provide assistance," Henderson said.
The search for survivors was scaled down later Monday as rescuers said it was increasingly unlikely further survivors would be found.
Two New Zealand fishing boats were released from the effort but three Korean vessels searched on, officials said.
Rescuers considered calling in aircraft from either New Zealand or from the U.S. Antarctic research station on McMurdo Sound, but Henderson said the plan was abandoned because neither plane could reach the distant search area in time to find survivors.
Many fishing vessels ply the remote seas to haul in deepwater fish such as the Patagonian toothfish, also known as Chilean sea bass, to sell to restaurants around the world. With world consumption of seafood increasing, commercial fleets have begun to operate farther offshore to meet demand.
The South Korean owned and operated No. 1 Insung boat had 42 people on board when it sunk: eight South Koreans, eight Chinese, 11 Indonesians, 11 Vietnamese, three Filipinos and one Russian, South Korea's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The confirmed dead included two Indonesians, two South Koreans and one Vietnamese, a ministry official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of office rules. He said that four Chinese sailors were missing while four other Chinese were rescued.
It was unclear why the vessel sank in light winds and a relatively mild 3-foot (1meter) swell. Separately, South Korean media outlets reported that high waves that later developed in the area were hampering the rescue operation.
Seoul-based Insung Corporation - which owns the boat - said that intense rescue operations were under way. Company official Lee Wuwon said that a South Korean fishing boat operating nearby first contacted Insung officials about the sinking earlier Monday.
Tearful family members of the missing sailors gathered at Insung's office in the southeastern port city of Busan and waited for news on their loved ones.
Kim Sun-su said his brother-in-law, the boat's missing skipper, Yu Youngsup, told him he didn't want to work on the boat any longer in a recent phone call.
" I only hope he will return home alive," Kim said, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency. -Ap
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