S. Korea sends rescuers to join search for missing sailors

December 5, 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 the accident site where a South Korean fishing ship sunk off the coast of the Russian Far East on Dec. 1, 2014. (Yonhap)

SEOUL/BUSAN (Yonhap) — South Korea said Friday it has dispatched a rescue team to join the search for the missing crew members of a South Korean trawler that sank off Russia’s far east coast.

The 1,753-ton Oryong 501 carrying 60 crew members went down in the western Bering Sea on Monday. On Friday, Russian rescuers recovered seven more bodies from waters near the accident site, raising the death toll to 27, according to the ship’s owner, Sajo Industries. A total of 26 sailors remained missing.

Seven crew members — one Russian, five Indonesians and one Filipino — have been rescued, with one South Korean sailor passing away shortly after being raised from the sea.

South Korea’s Ministry of Public Safety and Security said it has sent a patrol boat and a chopper with 74 rescuers, investigators and other personnel on board to join the search operation and determine the cause of the accident.

The ministry, however, did not say when they will arrive at the scene and return home.

Currently, eight Russian ships, a U.S. Coast Guard aircraft and a Russian helicopter are searching for those missing.

Sajo Industries said search and rescue operations are likely to gather momentum as strong winds and high waves have eased to manageable levels.

Family members of those missing claim that the boat sank because the company forced the crewmen to fish in bad weather.

The ministry was established last month following criticism over the government’s poor initial response to a deadly ferry sinking in April, which left more than 300 people dead in one of the nation’s worst maritime disasters.

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