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Thailand races to find missing marines after navy vessel capsizes

Thailand races to find missing marines after navy vessel capsizes

By Napat Wesshasartar

BANG SAPHAN, Thailand (Reuters) – Navy ships and rescue teams searched waters off central Thailand on Tuesday in a race against the clock to locate 30 missing marines, who abandoned a warship that sank at the weekend in choppy waters.

The HTMS Sukhothai warship, a U.S.-made corvette in use since 1987, suffered an engine malfunction and went down just before midnight on Sunday about 20 nautical miles off the coast.

The vessel was carrying 105 military personnel when it capsized after being knocked over by big waves as water flooded its engines.

There were 75 seamen rescued from the boat but dozens more had to abandon ship in rafts and wearing life jackets.

Vice Admiral Pichai Lorchusakul, the regional navy commander, said finding the men on Tuesday would be critical given the time they had been exposed to the elements.

“Life jacket, life buoy and their floating technique allow us 48 hours to save their lives,” he said late on Monday. “We will try to do as much as we can to save them.”

Though military accidents, often with aircraft, are not uncommon in Thailand, incidents involving navy vessels have been rare in recent years.

One of the men was found late on Monday in waters off Prachuap Khiri Khan province in the Gulf of Thailand, clinging to a buoy.

“He was floating in the water for 10 hours. He was still conscious, so we could take him out of the water safely,” said Captain Kraipich Korawee-Paparwit, commander of the HTMS Kranburi, one of the warships involved in the search mission.

(Reporting by Juarawee Kittisilpa; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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