South Korea boat sinks in Antarctic sea; 22 feared dead

The deep-sea trawler with 42 crew members on board sank off Antarctica.

Seoul: A South Korean fishing boat sank in the Antarctic Ocean`s frigid waters on Monday, with 22 sailors feared killed in the open sea where vessels trawl for deepwater fish, officials said.

Twenty survivors were rescued shortly after the 614-ton vessel went down some 1,400 miles (2,250 kilometres) south of New Zealand about halfway to Antarctica, South Korea`s Foreign Ministry and coast guard said.

Anyone who fell into such waters would typically would be dead in 10 minutes without special suits or lifejackets, though nearby fishing boats launched a frantic search in hopes that some may have made it into a life raft, New Zealand`s rescue coordination centre said.

"We were fortunate that there were a number of vessels in the general area (where the boat sank), so they were able to provide for survivors was scaled down later Monday as it was "increasingly unlikely" further survivors would be found, Henderson said. Two New Zealand fishing boats were released from the effort but three Korean vessels searched on, he added.

Rescuers considered calling in aircraft from either New Zealand or from the US Antarctic research station on McMurdo Sound, but Henderson said the plan was abandoned because neither plane could reach the remote area in time to find survivors.

The South Korean owned and operated No 1 Insung sank about 1,100 miles (1,850 kilometres) north of Antarctica — a little more than halfway between New Zealand and Antarctica.

Many fishing vessels ply the remote seas to haul in deepwater fish such as the Patagonian toothfish, also known as Chilean sea bass, to sell to restaurants around the world. With world consumption of seafood increasing, commercial fleets have begun to operate farther offshore to meet demand.

The Korean boat had 42 people on board when it sunk: eight South Koreans, eight Chinese, 11 Indonesians, 11 Vietnamese, three Filipinos and one Russian, South Korea`s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The confirmed dead included two Indonesians, two South Koreans and one Vietnamese, a ministry official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of office rules.

The Chinese embassy in South Korea said four Chinese sailors were missing while four others were rescued, China`s official Xinhua News Agency reported told Xinhua.

It was unclear why the vessel sank in light winds and a relatively mild 3-foot (1-meter) swell.

Separately, South Korean media outlets reported that high waves that later developed in the area were hampering the rescue operation.

Officials at the South Korean-based company that owns the boat had no immediate comment.

Bureau Report

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