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Rough seas hamper search for 24 sailors

Update: December, 18/2010 - 11:10

HA NOI — Three sailors were rescued yesterday while 24 remain missing after a cargo ship capsized in waters off the central province of Ha Tinh early on Thursday due to strong gales and rough seas.

The Hai Phong Port Authority said the Duong Dong picked up one of the sailors at 8pm on Thursday but he died on the way to hospital in the northern city of Hai Phong.

An identification card showed that the victim was Dong Van Bau, born in 1979, from Hung Hoa District in Thanh Hoa Province.

According to Xinhua News Agency, Chinese rescuers found two more Vietnamese sailors at 8.40am yesterday.

Viet Nam National Shipping Lines said that the Chinese rescue vessel which was carrying the two sailors was expected to arrive at port late yesterday afternoon.

The sailors were in a critical condition and hadn't been identified, the source said.

The other victims have not been heard from since then and the search is continuing.

After the incident took place, harsh conditions prevented rescue ships from reaching the site where the Phu Tan went down, about 120km off the coast of Ha Tinh Province.

The Hai Phong Port Authority received a distress call from the ship at around 7.30am on Thursday reporting that the ship was sinking and a few hours later, they lost contact with the ship.

The authority also said the sailors and passengers may have fallen overboard.

The Maritime Search and Rescue Centre for Region 1 dispatched rescue vessels to search for the ship and ordered the Song Cau oil tanker which was operating near the scene to help with the rescue mission.

According to Xinhua, Chinese maritime rescue authorities also dispatched a rescue vessel to help after receiving emergency calls from their Vietnamese counterparts.

The Phu Tan was owned by the Viet Nam National Shipping Lines Company and had a loading capacity of 140,000 tonnes. It was on its way to Hai Phong from HCM City when the accident happened.

The extreme weather conditions also damaged nine fishing boats with a total of 73 men on board, said Phan Van On, head of the Committee for Flood and Storm Control in the central province of Quang Ngai.

Eight of them containing 63 men have been escorted to safety. — VNS

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