7 missing after fishing boat capsizes in high seas near Jeju
Rescue crews on Wednesday continued to scour the waters northwest of Jeju Island in search of seven fishermen whose boat capsized in high seas Tuesday night before crashing against a sea wall and disappearing in the early morning hours.
The captain of the 39-ton dragnet fishing boat, a 55-year-old man surnamed Kim, and six fishermen set out from Seongsan Port on Jeju Island at around 4:40 p.m. Tuesday, according to the marine police. Three of the fishermen are Korean, while the other three are Indonesian citizens.
Meeting high waves and bad weather, the boat capsized Tuesday at 7:44 p.m. The boat sent out rescue signals and marine police found it at 9:11 p.m., overturned and floating about one mile northwest of the Jeju Port.
In a phone call with the fishermen, police confirmed that there were seven fishermen aboard the boat, five of whom were together in a cabin near the stern of the boat, and two of whom were in the steering house.
The police began the rescue operation with a helicopter and a rescue boat, and a Navy vessel located nearby also joined in the efforts. Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun, notified of the incident, ordered the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries to assist with the rescue work.
A marine police officer reached the boat at 9:21 p.m. and knocked on the outside of the boat. It was reciprocated from inside, signaling that the men were still alive.
But eight attempts to rescue the fishermen failed due to high waves and the fishing nets that were surrounding the boat, police said.
The police kept up communications with the fishermen at intervals of about 30 minutes until 3:13 a.m. Wednesday. But at 3:47 a.m., the boat crashed into a seawall at Jeju Port and disintegrated. The marine police said they lost sight of the boat after the crash.
Parts of the stern washed ashore near the port.
Marine police say they’ve been searching the waters with nine vessels and one helicopter since the crash, but none of the seven fishermen have been found yet.
“We will be mobilizing all of our rescue resources to find the missing persons as soon as possible,” Lee Chun-sik, a Jeju Marine Police department chief, told the press on Wednesday.
Police said they have communicated with the families of the fishermen and contacted the Embassy of Indonesia in Korea to get in touch with the relatives of the Indonesian fishermen.
The national weather agency has issued strong wind advisories in all areas of Jeju Island Wednesday, with waves measuring four to five meters (13 to 16 feet) high in the waters around the island. According to the national weather agency and the marine police, the temperature of the waters northwest of Jeju Island are about 18 to 19 degrees Celsius (64 to 66 degrees Fahrenheit).
All sea routes to and from Jeju Island had been closed as of Tuesday evening.
BY ESTHER CHUNG [firstname.lastname@example.org]