Joint search for three missing sailors

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Joint search for three missing sailors

Despite three days of search efforts led by the Coast Guard and assistance from Japan, China and Taiwan, three missing crew members lost in waters 720 kilometers (447 miles) south of Seogwipo, Jeju Island, have not been found.

The three crew members, all Korean nationals, went missing after a fire on the 29-ton Hwanggeum 3005 at around 3:40 a.m. Friday, which left five other fishermen dead, one a Chinese national.

Only one member of the nine-man crew, a Chinese sailor, was rescued while floating in the water with a life preserver around five hours after the blaze engulfed the boat. The boat’s captain, a 56-year-old surnamed Chang, was among the four dead.

“I woke up after I heard a crew member shouting fire. I grabbed a lifebelt and jumped into the water,” the rescued 35-year-old Chinese fisherman, surnamed Jiang, reportedly told the Coast Guard. He is now undergoing treatment at a hospital on Jeju Island.

“It’s fair to say the lifebelt played a crucial role in saving Jiang’s life,” said Ko Chang-geon, head of the public information team at the Seogwipo Coast Guard.

The fire-stricken boat sank at around 7:20 a.m., about three and a half hours after the fire started, according to the Coast Guard.

“We have yet to find the exact cause of the fire,” Ko said.

“Hauling up the sunken boat may be needed to find clues as to why the fire started, but we have not decided whether to pull it up.”

The Coast Guard official added that it has not been determined when authorities will halt search efforts if the missing three are not found. The search was being hampered by waves of up to four meters (13 feet).

The sinking of the boat and the need to search for four fishermen prompted joint efforts. One body was found yesterday.

Three foreign patrol boats, one each from Japan, China and Taiwan, yesterday made joint search efforts with the Coast Guard, which dispatched two 3,000-ton patrol ships and four speedboats along with one aircraft yesterday.

By Kang Jin-kyu, Choi Kyung-ho []
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