Seoul: At least 13 people were dead and two missing on Sunday after a South Korean fishing boat collided with a 336-tonne oil tanker and capsized around 6.09 am in the waters off Jindo port nine minutes after it left land.
Seven people were rescued. The boat’s captain surnamed Oh is among the two missing. The victims were aged between 30 and 70 and all on board were wearing life jackets.
The 9.77-ton Seonchang-1 collided with the oil tanker as the two vessels were passing a narrow channel under Yeongheung Bridge which connects Yeongheung Island to Seonjae Island. The oil tanker did not suffer any damage. All four people on the oil tanker were rescued.
The high casualties were linked to swift currents and low water temperatures.
President Moon Jae-in received a briefing on the accident in less than an hour and he ordered a rescue operation.
The Korea Coast Guard are searching for the missing along with the navy which has mobilized dozens of ships, including the 2,500-tonne Chungbuk frigate and naval choppers. The navy’s divers have also joined the search operation.
Authorities were questioning the crew of the oil tanker to determine the cause of the collision.
According to the Coast Guard, the boat had licence.
It is the worst tragedy involving a South Korean recreational fishing boat after a similar accident in the waters off Jeju Island in September 2015. Fifteen people died and three went missing in that mishap.
More than 300 people, most of them schoolchildren, were killed when a 6,800-tonne South Korean ferry Sewol sank in the waters off Jindo port on April 16, 2014.
Months later, more than 50 fishermen drowned or went missing after their vessel sank in the Bering Sea.