Waves sink Chinese ship off Pohang, killing 9

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Waves sink Chinese ship off Pohang, killing 9

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The cargo ship Cheng Lu 15 sunk off the southeastern port of Pohang Tuesday. [NEWS1]

A cargo ship en route to Japan from Korea sank in gale force winds and rough seas off the southeastern coast Tuesday, killing nine of its 19-man crew.

Two sailors remain missing and eight were rescued. The crew was all Chinese, except for one Vietnamese sailor who either died or is missing.

The 8,461-ton vessel, the Cheng Lu 15, registered in Panama but owned by a Chinese shipping company, sunk 900 meters (2,952 feet) off the southeastern port of Pohang around 3:40 p.m. Tuesday after being hit by bad weather and waves measuring 6 meters to 8 meters, according to the coast guard.

The cargo ship was actually anchored due to the poor weather but waves slammed it into breakwater and it started to sink and drift.

“It seems that the ship was pulled against the seawall over and over again after being hit by the strong winds and waves,” said a coast guard official. “But we need to investigate the ship to verify the specific cause.”

Authorities attempted to reach the ship on late Tuesday with approximately 300 rescue workers, three helicopters and 13 vessels. The Chinese Consul General in Busan also sent a team of four to assist the rescue work and asked for all-out efforts to rescue the crew.

But the rescue efforts were hampered by the severe weather. By the time rescuers made it to the scene, the vessel was nearly submerged. The rescue workers plucked seven survivors to safety in the early hours of yesterday morning after they were found clinging to the upper part of the ship’s mast. One survivor was rescued at the port.

All the survivors are Chinese, but specifics on the survivors and the casualties have yet to be announced.

The ship unloaded 5,200 tons of freight at Pohang before it started to sink, and reports said that it was carrying 130 tons of oil. Local media outlets reported that oil leaked into the sea, but the scale of the leak has yet to be determined.

“As we carried out the search operation via helicopters, we observed an oil slick coming from the cargo ship,” said a representative of the coast guard. “But we can’t take any measure to contain the leak because of the bad weather.”

Pohang Mayor Park Seung-ho visited the marine office to monitor the rescue operation yesterday morning.

The mayor said that the city will try to minimize the environmental impact.

“We are checking now the details of the leak,” Mayor Park said.



BY PARK EUN-JEE [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]

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