Bangkok, Thailand Eureka News Now —
The Thai Navy said on Sunday the death toll from the sinking of one of its warships earlier in the week has risen to 18.
HTMS Sukhothai sank early Monday in heavy weather, leaving dozens of her 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 were 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, said the Royal Thai Navy’s commander-in-chief Adm. Cherngchai Chomcherngpat, on Tuesday.
The additional officers were on board because the ship was attending a salute to the founder of the Thai Navy, Cherngchai said. The crew is “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 tried to escape on inflatable boats, some stored aboard HTMS Sukhothai and others dropped by rescue helicopters and other vessels.
“With or without a life jacket (it) does not affect the chances of survival,” said the admiral.
He said the ship sank after seawater entered and disabled its power systems.
The waves at that time were between 3 and 4 meters (10 ft to 13 ft) high and the water temperature was around 29 degrees Celsius (84 degrees Fahrenheit).
Water entered the front part of the 76.8-meter warship around 8:45 p.m. Sunday, Cherngchai said.
The flooding lasted for more than three hours, eventually crippling the ship’s engine and electrical systems and frustrating efforts to pump it out.
Rescue teams in helicopters attempted to lower water pumps onto the ship, but efforts were thwarted when the ship began to tilt severely.
The admiral dismissed a suggestion that the nearly 40-year-old ship might not have been in the right shape to tackle the high seas, saying it had been upgraded several times in recent years.