Thailand warship: Death toll from HTMS Sukhothai sinking rises to 18

Bangkok, Thailand

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

The HTMS Sukhothai sank in bad weather early Monday, leaving dozens of its crew missing in stormy seas in the Gulf of Thailand.

11 officers remain 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 have been rescued.

The ship was carrying 30 more people than usual at the time of its sinking, and there were not enough life jackets for everyone, Royal Thai Navy Commander-in-Chief Adm. Cherngchai Chomcherngpat said on Tuesday.

The extra officers were on board because the ship was participating in a salute 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 the officers who did not have life jackets,” Cherngchai added.

Some of those without life jackets tried to escape in inflatable rafts, some of which were stored aboard the HTMS Sukhothai and some of which were launched by rescue helicopters and other ships.

“With or without a life jacket (it) doesn’t affect the odds of survival,” the admiral said.

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

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

Water entered the front 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.

Rescue crews in helicopters attempted to lower water pumps onto the ship, but efforts were thwarted when the ship began to list heavily.

The admiral rejected a suggestion that the nearly 40-year-old ship may not have been in adequate shape to handle high seas, saying it had been upgraded several times in recent years.

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