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Thai Navy Searches for 31 Sailors Missing After Warship Sinking

The HTMS Sukhothai warship capsizes in high waves Sunday night while on patrol in the Gulf of Thailand.

Thai navy ships and helicopters are searching for 31 missing sailors after their warship sank in heavy seas in the Gulf of Thailand.

The HTMS Sukhothai capsized on Sunday night while on patrol some 37 kilometers (22 miles) off the country’s southeast coast.

As of Monday afternoon, 75 sailors serving on the sloop had been rescued and 31 were still missing, the Navy said. The high waves that caused the accident had subsided since the sinking, but were still high enough to endanger small craft, the Navy said.

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An air force statement on Monday said it was assisting in the operation. He did not give details.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said the cause of the incident was being investigated. “I closely follow the news,” he said in a statement. “About five people are seriously injured.”

A rescued crew member interviewed by Thai PBS television said he floated in the sea for three hours before being rescued. He said the ship was battered by 10-foot (3-meter) waves as she sank.

“The waves are still high and we cannot search for them from the horizontal line,” navy spokesman Pokkrong Monthatphalin told Thai PBS. “We have to fly the helicopters and look for them from a bird’s eye view.”

Army personnel and rescue team gather at a makeshift rescue operation site during the search for survivors of the sinking of the Thai naval vessel HTMS Sukhothai some 37 kilometers (22 miles) off the southeast coast Sunday night, at Bang Saphan Pier in Prachuap Khiri Khan.  district, on December 19, 2022. - On December 19, Thai military frigates and helicopters were searching for 31 sailors after a naval vessel sank, and dozens of others had been rescued from rough waters.  (Photo by Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP)
Military personnel and rescue teams have been deployed to search for survivors of the HTMS Sukhothai sinking. [Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP]

Eleven of the rescued sailors were being treated at the hospital. The navy denied a local media report that a death had been confirmed, saying the death was due to an accident involving another ship.

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Thailand’s Meteorological Department had issued a weather advisory for the general area just hours before the accident, saying thunderstorms were expected in the Gulf of Thailand along with waves 2–4 meters (7–14 ft) high. He suggested that all ships “proceed with caution” and warned small craft not to put to sea until Tuesday.

The Sukhothai was built in Tacoma, Washington, in the United States and commissioned in 1987. It is a medium-sized corvette, an armed vessel typically used for patrols near coastal waters. She has a maximum displacement of 959 tons and a length of 76.8 meters (252 ft).

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The warship had been patrolling 32 kilometers (20 miles) from the pier in Bangsaphan district in Prachuap Khiri Khan province. Pokkrong said the boat had been on a regular patrol to help fishing boats that needed help.

“Our main priority now is to rescue all the sailors,” he said. “We will plan to rescue the ship later.”

Northern and central Thailand are experiencing the coldest temperatures of the year, and the southern tip of Thailand has been experiencing storms and flooding in recent days.

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