Two confirmed dead in sunken Chinese fishing vessel; Indian Navy deploys P-8I for search efforts

The missing crew includes 17 Chinese nationals, 17 Indonesians, and five persons from the Philippines

Updated - May 19, 2023 04:01 pm IST

Published - May 18, 2023 03:45 pm IST - New Delhi

P-8I maritime patrol aircraft. File image: Special Arrangement

P-8I maritime patrol aircraft. File image: Special Arrangement

Two crew of the capsized Chinese deep sea fishing vessel are confirmed dead, the Chinese Ministry of Transport said on May 18 as a multinational effort is racing against time to locate the missing crew.

The Indian Navy said that responding to a distress call from the fishing vessel Lu Peng Yuan Yu 028, it had deployed P-8I maritime patrol aircraft on May 17 for search and rescue (SAR) efforts in the southern Indian Ocean Region, approximately 900 nautical miles from India.  

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), which is coordinating the rescue effort in waters located around 5,000 km from Australia and 1,300 km south of Sri Lanka, said that they had identified a large area in the Indian Ocean where they will focus the search. The Australian Defence Force too has deployed a P-8A aircraft for the search.

According to the Chinese ministry, as of 2 p.m. Thursday, 10 vessels, including three Chinese Navy ships and one foreign ship, were involved in SAR efforts, and more ships are scheduled to arrive.

“P8I aircraft have carried out multiple and extensive searches despite adverse weather and located multiple objects possibly belonging to the sunken vessel. As an immediate response, SAR equipment was deployed at the scene by the Indian aircraft on request of PLA(N) (Chinese Navy) ships closing the area,” the Indian Navy spokesperson said on Thursday.

The missing crew includes 17 Chinese nationals, 17 Indonesians, and five persons from the Philippines.

Photo: Special Arrangement

Photo: Special Arrangement

Chinese news agency Xinhua, quoting a spokesperson of the AMSA, reported that based on drift modelling, a remote 12,000 sq. km. zone has been identified to search for the vessel.

“A number of merchant ships and other vessels have been assisting with the search and will continue to do so today. AMSA would like to thank these vessels and their crews for their invaluable assistance,” the AMSA spokesperson was quoted as having said on Thursday. “Australia has been liaising with the Chinese Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, with three Chinese naval ships continuing the search in the area today.”

According to AMSA, the massive search effort was launched after they received a distress beacon signal from the fishing vessel at about 5.30 a.m. Australian Eastern Standard Time on the morning of May 16.

The Indian Navy spokesperson further stated that in a display of India’s obligations as a “credible and responsible partner” for ensuring safety at sea, Indian Navy units also coordinated SAR efforts with other units in the area, and guided PLA(N) warships transiting to the scene of the incident. “Indian Navy continues to remain deployed to provide all possible assistance to the ongoing SAR efforts,” the spokesperson added.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Thursday that countries “such as Australia, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, the Maldives and the Philippines have extended emergency assistance and sent sympathies for the Chinese boat and crew.” “The operation has been commended from various quarters in China and abroad. The Chinese government sincerely appreciates the help from those countries. As we speak, the search and rescue operation is still underway,” he said.

So far, no survivors have been found with extreme weather and rough seas hampering the SAR efforts, which slightly improved on Thursday.

As reported byThe Hindu, diplomatic sources said 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”.

Later in the evening, the Chinese Embassy in India acknowledged Indian Navy’s assistance in ongoing search efforts on social media. “Truly appreciate the timely help!,” the Embassy said on Twitter responding to the Indian Navy’s post on its SAR efforts.

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