“The vessel, a 200 ton barge 20 metres wide and 49m long, sank about five nautical miles off Koh Racha Yai at about 3:50am,” Vice-Admiral Sayan Prasongsamrej, Commander of the Third Naval Area, told The Phuket News late this afternoon.
The barge apparently suffered engine failure and was soon overcome by the heavy seas, with winds whipping up to 50kmh and waves reaching heights of four metres. (See story here).
“We dispatched a search helicopter while Navy and Marine Police boats searched for them. The Navy helicopter made four passes over the search area, but failed to locate the men,” V/Adm Sayan said.
Eventually the helicopter had to abandon its search due to safety concerns, as the wind was very strong and the rain reduced visibility, V/Adm Syan added.
“Tomorrow, we will use our Dornier search aircraft to continue the mission,” he said.
Capt Kritsana Khunthiya has high hopes the men are are still alive.
“We presume at this stage that all six men are alive,” he said. “They reportedly managed to bind a raft of empty drums together before the barge sank, and were last reported to be holding onto that.”