January 27, 2023

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Thai warship HTMS Sukhothai sinks in severe weather, leaving 33 crew missing

Bangkok, Thailand Eureka News Now —

A Royal Thai Navy warship sank early Monday in heavy weather, leaving 33 of its crew of 106 seamen missing in stormy seas in the Gulf of Thailand, Thai authorities said.

Three rescued sailors were in critical condition and a search operation was underway for the missing crew, authorities said.

Strong winds upended the 76.8-meter corvette HTMS Sukhothai, allowing seawater to enter an exhaust pipe and subsequently shut down the ship’s electrical system, the Thai Navy said in a statement.

The electrical shutdown caused the ship’s main power systems to fail, leaving the crew unable to maneuver or pump out seawater that had entered the hull, sources said.

Over the course of more than three hours, efforts to transfer pumps from other naval vessels responding to the incident to the Sukhothai failed, the statement said.

“On Monday at 12:12 a.m., the Sukhothai tilted further and later sank,” it said.

The severe weather in the Gulf of Thailand, about 32 kilometers from Bang Saphan district in Prachuap Khiri Khan province, continued late Monday morning, hampering search efforts to locate the missing crew, authorities said.

The 960-ton Sukhothai was built in the United States and entered service with the Thai Navy in 1987.

Carl Schuster, a retired US Navy captain, said the Thai crew faced a difficult situation on such an old ship.

“Once the power goes out, you’re in the dark and do it all with portable diesel pumps and buckets,” he said.

“For a small, (almost) 40-year-old ship in heavy seas, the odds are slim in this case.”