HTMS Sukhothai: Thai warship sinks, 6 dead, too few life jackets, admiral says

Bangkok, Thailand

Thai navy officials on Tuesday said there were not enough life jackets for everyone on board. a warship sunk early on Monday in extreme weather in the Gulf of Thailand with at least six people killed.

23 people are still missing after the sinking of the corvette HTMS Sukhothai, while 76 have been rescued, Royal Thai Navy Commander-in-Chief Admiral Cherngchai Chomcherngpat told a news conference.

Cherngchai said the ship was carrying 105 people at the time of the sinking, 30 more than usual, and there were not enough life jackets for all of them.

Additional officers were on board because the ship was participating in the celebration of the Thai navy’s founder, the admiral added: “It is common to have to add life jackets for additional officers.”

The crew was “fully aware of the problem of not having enough life jackets for the 30 additional officers. They tried to use other tools that could have saved the lives of officers without life jackets,” the admiral said.

Some people without life jackets tried to escape on inflatable rafts, some were stored on corvettes and some were dropped off by rescue helicopters and other ships.

The admiral said of the 30 people without life jackets, 18 had been rescued and the rest were still missing.

“Having or not having a life jacket (it) has no effect on survival rates,” he added.

He said the ship sank after seawater entered and disabled its electrical system.

At the time, the waves were 3 to 4 meters (10 feet to 13 feet) high and the water temperature was about 29 degrees Celsius (84 degrees Fahrenheit).

Cherngchai said the water entered the front part of the 252-foot (76.8-meter) warship around 8:45 p.m. Sunday.

Flooding continued for more than three hours, eventually disabling the ship’s engines and electrical systems and crippling efforts to pump water out.

Helicopter rescue crews attempted to lower the ship’s water pump, but the effort was thwarted when it began to tilt heavily.

The admiral dismissed the suggestion that the nearly 40-year-old vessel might not be in a good condition to handle the high seas, saying it had been upgraded several times in recent years.


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