8 more crew members of S. Korea ship found dead in Bering Sea

December 4, 2014
This photo shows an accident site where a South Korean fishing ship sunk off the coast of the Russian Far East on Dec. 1, 2014. (Yonhap)

This photo shows an accident site where a South Korean fishing ship sunk off the coast of the Russian Far East on Dec. 1, 2014. (Yonhap)

BUSAN/SEOUL (Yonhap) — Rescuers recovered eight more bodies from icy waters off Russia’s far east Thursday, three days after a South Korean fishing vessel carrying 60 people went down there, the ship’s owner said.

This raised the confirmed death toll from the sinking to 20, with 33 people remaining unaccounted for, Sajo Industries said in a press release.

The 1,753-ton Oryong 501 sank in the western Bering Sea on Monday. Seven crewmen — one Russian inspector, three Filipinos and three Indonesians — had earlier been rescued, with one South Korean sailor dying shortly after being rescued.

On Thursday, the bodies of eight crewmen, including two South Koreans, were found near the accident site, it added.

“I will command all-out search operations for the missing crew amid the good weather,” said Sajo Chairman Yim Chae-ok at the company’s headquarters in Busan, South Korea’s largest port on the south coast.

Eight ships are involved in the search and rescue operations, according to the company.

The company forecast that the search and rescue operations to be active with the participation of a U.S. Coast Guard aircraft and a Russian helicopter.

The ship’s ability to balance itself was compromised after water flooded in and blocked a drain, the company said, citing a communication record between the Oryong and other ships.

The Oryong 501, built in Spain in 1978, was acquired by the South Korean fisheries firm Sajo Industries in 2010.

Maritime Minister Lee Ju-young, meanwhile, promised to put the utmost efforts in the operation after holding a meeting with the families of the missing fishermen.

“It is regrettable that patriots were victimized by the accident,” Lee said, further instructing government officials to spare no efforts to handle supportive measures for the victims.

The government said it has decided to send two maritime surveillance aircraft and one 5,000 ton-patrol ship to the site in a bid to help the search and rescue operations.

The government held a meeting earlier in the day to discuss how to support the families of the victims and search for the missing crewmen.

“It would take about nine days for the patrol ship to arrive at the site,” said an official at the state-run public safety ministry, adding that the ship will depart late Friday after preparations.

The foreign ministry said that Seoul has been also in talks with the U.S., Russia and Japan to allow its surveillance planes to pass through their airspace.

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