Search efforts on as Chinese ship capsizes in Indian Ocean, 39 crew members missing

There are 17 Chinese, 17 Indonesians and five Filipino mariners on board the vessel; Australian Maritime Safety Authority received a distress signal early on Tuesday and is coordinating the rescue, about 1,300 km south of Sri Lanka

Updated - May 17, 2023 08:50 pm IST

Published - May 17, 2023 08:47 am IST - NEW DELHI

A Chinese fishing vessel with 39 crew members on board has capsized in the Indian Ocean and President Xi Jinping has ordered that all efforts be made to search for survivors, state media reported on May 17. Search and rescue vessels were in a race against time on Wednesday to locate a Chinese fishing vessel, which had capsized in the waters of the Indian Ocean south of Sri Lanka on May 16, with 39 people on board.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) was coordinating the rescue effort in waters located around 5,000 km from Australia and 1,300 km south of Sri Lanka.

Chinese state media reported the AMSA had received a distress beacon signal early on Tuesday from the Chinese vessel Lu Peng Yuan Yu 028, which had on board 17 Chinese, 17 Indonesians and five mariners from the Philippines. The AMSA has requested the Australian Defence Force to provide assets for the search, and a P-8A Poseidon aircraft had already been deployed on Tuesday night.

No survivors found yet

Two Chinese vessels in the area had also been involved in rescue efforts while Chinese embassies and consulates in “Australia, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Indonesia, the Philippines and other countries” had been engaged to coordinate the efforts, Chinese state media reported. No survivors have been found so far, and extreme weather in the area on Tuesday complicated search efforts.

A senior official of the Sri Lankan Navy said that Sri Lanka was yet to take a decision on sending a vessel, as it did not have vessels in the area and its ships would take a couple of days to reach the capsized ship.

Diplomatic sources said that the Indian Navy’s Information Fusion Centre–Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) was sharing information on the incident with affiliated partners and agencies.

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday “demanded all-out efforts in the rescue of the missing people,” State media reported. He also called for “efforts to further strengthen the investigation and early warning of potential safety risks in deep-sea operations to ensure the safety of life and property.”

(With inputs from Meera Srinivasan in Colombo)

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