HTMS Sukhothai: Thai warship sinking death toll rises to 18

Bangkok, Thailand

Thailand’s navy said on Sunday the death toll from the sinking of one of its warships earlier in the week had risen to 18.

The HTMS Sukhothai sank in heavy weather on Monday morning, leaving dozens of crew members missing in rough seas in the Gulf of Thailand.

11 officers are still missing, the Royal Thai Navy said in an update on Sunday. Of the 105 on board the ship at the time of the disaster, 76 were rescued.

The ship was carrying 30 more people than usual when it sank, and there were not enough life jackets for all of them, the Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Navy Adm. Cherngchai Chomcherngpat.

The extra officers were on board because the ship was taking part in a tribute to the founder of the Thai Navy, Cherngchai said. The crew was “fully aware of the problem of not having enough life jackets for 30 additional officers. They tried to use other tools that could save the lives of officers who didn’t have life jackets,” Cherngchai added.

Some of those without life jackets attempted to escape on inflatable rafts, some of which were stored aboard HTMS Sukhothai and some of which were dropped by rescue helicopters and other vessels.

« With or without a life jacket (it) does not affect the chances of survival, » the admiral said.

He said the ship sank after seawater entered and disabled its power systems.

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

Water entered the forward section of the 252-foot (76.8-meter) long warship around 8:45 p.m. Sunday, Cherngchai said.

The flooding continued for more than three hours, eventually disabling the ship’s engine and electrical systems and dooming efforts to pump it out.

Helicopter rescue teams attempted to lower the water pumps to the ship, but their efforts were thwarted as the ship began to heel over sharply.

The admiral dismissed a suggestion that the nearly 40-year-old ship might not have been fit for the high seas, saying it had been modernized several times in recent years.

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