The missing mother, father and three-year-old child were on the barge when it capsized shortly after a wave reported to be five metres high hit six vessels sheltering behind an offshore gas drilling platform between Koh Tao in Surat Thani’s Koh Phangnan district and Ao Lang Suan and a bay in Luang Suan district of Chumphon.
The six vessels, two tug boats and four barges carrying rubberwood chips, had left Tapee River in Surat Thani’s Muang district to deliver their cargo to a factory in Chachoengsao’s Bang Pakong district, said Wassana Saithongkham, a crew member of one of the tugs.
Ms Wassana alerted Koh Tao rescue centre about the incident, requesting help around 8pm yesterday.
“On the way, we heard the Meteorological Department’s weather forecast, warning that there would be strong waves. We tried to seek shelter near Koh Tao, but the ropes attached to the third barge were suddenly torn off," Ms Wassana said.
“Only two of the barges were still attached to the tug boats, leaving the other two barges alone in the sea. The fourth barge was hit by a powerful wave and then sank. The missing family was on that barge,” she said.
At around 9:30pm a rescue team found and saved five people, two adults and three children, found floating in the sea. With the waves running as high as 4-5m, and strong winds, the search was then called off. It resumed today.
An air force plane searched the area this morning but failed to find any sign of the missing people, Surat Thani governor Ouaychai Innak said. The navy’s Second Fleet, based in Songkhla, sent a patrol ship to sea to join in the search.
The Meteorological Department’s forecast yesterday night was for wind-whipped waves 2-3m high in the Gulf of Thailand from Surat Thani southward. Small boats were advised to remain ashore.
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