Seven missing after Russia sinks Chinese cargo ship

February 19th, 2009 - 4:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Feb 19 (IANS) Seven Chinese sailors are missing after a cargo ship sank in Russian waters near Japan, media reports said Thursday.
Three of the 10 Chinese sailors onboard were saved but seven are still missing after the ship sank off the waters of Vladivostok, the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.

The ministry didn’t mention the cause of the incident, saying rescue efforts and an investigation into the incident are ongoing, the China Daily said.

But the Global Times, a Beijing-based Chinese language newspaper - citing a Russian newspaper - said Wednesday the ship was fired on by the Russian navy before it sank.

New Star, the cargo ship, was sequestered at the Russian port of Nakhodka earlier this month for alleged smuggling.

It left the port not far from the Sino-Russian border without permission from Russian authorities last Thursday and was chased by a cruiser, the newspaper said.

Later, the warship shot at least 500 rounds onto the ship and forced it to sail back toward the port in force six winds.

However, the Chinese ship started to sink on the way. According to the report, in a period of almost 24 hours, Russian navy officers and soldiers onboard the cruiser watched the sinking boat and did not make any response to the cries for help from the crewmen.

In the end, 16 sailors onboard New Star got on two lifeboats. The Russian sailors managed to save one boat carrying eight people, while the other was engulfed in the waves.

Three of the missing sailors are Chinese while the other five came from Indonesia, the report said.

The coastal coordination and assistance centre of Vladivostok announced Sunday that a Russian coast guard cruiser saved eight foreign sailors trapped by bad weather. It did not mention the alleged firing from the Russian navy.

However, a Russian media report said Wednesday the coast guard just found an empty boat in a three-day search. It also cited bad weather as the reason behind the accident.

According the International Maritime Organisation, the owner of New Star is a shipping company of Zhejiang, while the operator is a company based in Guangzhou.

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