Hopes fade for Hong Kong shipwreck survivors

March 24th, 2008 - 10:15 am ICT by admin  

Hong Kong, March 24 (DPA) Hopes were fading Monday for 18 Ukrainian sailors trapped for more than 36 hours in a sunken tug boat off Hong Kong as rescuers attempted to bring the vessel to the surface. The crew have been trapped in the overturned vessel on the seabed 35 metres below the sea surface since the tugboat collided with a freighter in thick fog Saturday night.

The crewmembers of the 80-metre tugboat were in cabins and inside the boiler room of the boat when the collision took place between Hong Kong’s Kowloon peninsula and Lantau Island.

Marine police divers found the vessel upside down on the seabed Sunday and repeatedly hammered on the hull of the boat but received no response.

Seven survivors were picked out of the water within an hour of the accident but none have been found since and it took until Sunday to find the location of the boat on the seabed.

Hong Kong’s Marine Department said a salvage company was now attempting to tow the tugboat to shallower waters to see if anyone is still alive inside the vessel.

Marine director Roger Tucker said that given the warm sea temperature it was still possible, albeit unlikely, that some of the crewmembers may have found air pockets and survived.

The Polish-built boat, made in 1989, was loaded with drilling equipment and was heading for the South China Sea oilfield from Shenzhen in southern China at the time of the accident.

More than 130 people from fire, marine and other rescue departments as well as a government helicopter crew have been involved in the rescue operation.

If the 18 missing are confirmed dead, the incident will count as the worst single marine accident in Hong Kong’s busy but closely regulated waters for decades.

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