One dead, six missing after boat capsizes off Dokdo islets
One crewman was discovered dead and two others were rescued, the Coast Guard said Thursday, after a fishing boat carrying nine sailors capsized in waters near Dokdo a day earlier.
Six crew members remained unaccounted for after the 72-ton vessel, built in 1995, suddenly capsized Wednesday afternoon, 168 kilometers (104 miles) northeast of the country’s easternmost islets.
Four Indonesians, three Koreans and two Chinese were aboard the stricken vessel at the time, according to officials. The captain, engineer and deck leader were all Korean.
Sailors on a passing merchant ship sighted the overturned boat on Wednesday and reported it to Japanese maritime authorities.
Korea’s ownership of Dokdo is contested by Japan, and the islets and the surrounding area are the subject of a long-running sovereignty dispute between the two countries.
The Japan Coast Guard dispatched a PL-91 ship to the accident site to search for survivors immediately after receiving the accident report. It notified the Korean Coast Guard at around 2:24 p.m., at which point the Korean Coast Guard also launched a rescue operation.
The Donghae regional office of the Coast Guard immediately dispatched a pair of 5,000-ton and 1,500-ton patrol ships and helicopters to the site, but they arrived in the area at night and upon arrival only found an empty life raft near the site of the sinking.
The Coast Guard mobilized eight Coast Guard, Navy and private ships, as well as three helicopters and two aircraft, to expand search operations overnight on Wednesday. A Japanese Coast Guard ship is also participating.
However, a storm bringing waves as high as 3 to 4 meters (10 to 13 feet) complicated the rescue efforts.
A private fishing boat found two Chinese crew members conscious and holding onto anchored buoys near the area on Thursday morning. They are believed to have been in the sea for 15 hours without life vests.
Officials said they were airlifted by helicopter and rushed to a hospital on Ulleung Island, the nearest permanently inhabited island, for medical treatment.
Korean maritime officials later stepped up search and rescue operations by sending 14 divers to the capsized boat.
The deceased crewman, whose identity was not disclosed, was found inside the capsized vessel’s wheelhouse at 6:30 a.m. Thursday morning by divers sent inside.
Officials believe the accident occurred while the ship was making its way to fish for red crab.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum ordered the ministers of maritime affairs and national defense, as well as the Coast Guard chief, to do their best to save lives and ensure the safety of the rescue teams.
He also instructed the foreign minister to reach out to neighboring countries, such as Japan and Russia, to help in the search for survivors.
BY MICHAEL LEE [email@example.com]