S. Korea says search underway for missing ship off Taiwan coast

Taiwanese officials have dispatched a patrol ship to assist with the rescue mission. (Wikipedia pic/Taiwan Coast Guard)


SEOUL: A ship carrying six South Koreans went missing off Taiwan and a search and rescue operation is underway, Seoul’s foreign ministry said on Friday.

Taiwan authorities have said they received distress signals from the Kyoto 1 at around 9.50am on Thursday from a location about 29km west of the island nation, the ministry said, adding that all six people aboard were South Korean nationals.

The Sierra Leone-flagged, 322-ton ship was on its way to Indonesia’s Batam port from the South Korean city of Busan while towing the Kyoto 2 tender vessel, which has been found in the area.

“Our government has launched an emergency response team and dispatched a patrol ship and helicopters for a search,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that it was working with Taiwanese patrol authorities.

In a separate accident, a helicopter tasked with aiding the Taiwan operation crashed in waters off South Korea’s southernmost Mara island on Friday, killing two crew members and injuring a third with a fourth missing, the coast guard said.

A team of two coast guard pilots and two other officials was aboard the Sikorsky S-92 helicopter when it plunged into the sea 370km southwest of the island at about 1.32am.

The chopper was returning to its base at the Jeju island after dropping six members of a special rescue squad on a nearby patrol ship leaving for Taiwan, said Park Je-soo, a Jeju coast guard official.

“The pilot was alive when he was rescued, but his co-pilot and a radar operator were unconscious. Despite our emergency care, they did not regain consciousness,” Park told a televised briefing.

The pilot suffered multiple fractures and was hospitalised for treatment, and a search was ongoing for the missing fourth person, a mechanic, he added.