Death toll rises in Thai navy disaster as warship sinks during storm

The death toll has risen after a Thai navy ship sank off the coast of Thailand last week with not enough life jackets to go around for the 105 people on board.

On Sunday, Thai authorities confirmed that so far 18 bodies had been recovered, according to CNN.

That leaves 11 officers who are still missing, while 76 were rescued, including one survivor who was found a day after the catastrophe more than 60 kilometres away from where the boat sunk.

The HTMS Sukhothai, a 35-year-old warship, sank during stormy seas event last Monday, leaving its crew to brave four metre high waves in the dark.

Water overwhelmed the ship, destroying its electronic system and defying water pumps that officers tried to use.

Those aboard put out a distress call and other navy ships and helicopters raced over to help but the weather conditions, as well as the fact the ship was tilted at an unnatural angle, prevented them from being able to get close enough to render assistance.

The extra officers were aboard because the ship because they were involved in a salute to the founder of the Thai navy. Unfortunately, an extra 30 life jackets were not brought on board with them.

Navy crew members were aware they didn’t have the right number of life jackets as the ship began to sink.

The unlucky 30 people without life jackets were given buoys or inflatable rafts to escape.

Three days ago, on Friday, rescue operations found a life jacket on an island more than 100 kilometres away from the site of the sunken ship.

The life jacket had the name of a deceased sailor, Jakpong Poonpon. Authorities will reportedly return the jacket to his family.

Navy commander Admiral Cherngchai Chomcherngpat has been providing media updates and in one conference, a woman confronted him, who claimed her son was among the missing, according to CBS.

“My son called me with his friend’s phone when the ship started to sink,” she said.

“He said he did not get a life jacket and only a lifebuoy. As a parent, when I heard this, my heart was broken. If there were not enough life jackets, how much hope can you give me?”

Experts say it is unlikely those who went missing would be able to survive in the ocean for more than two days.

However, navy Chief of Staff Admiral Chonlathis Navanugraha said there was one stroke of good fortune on their side.

“Judging from the direction of the water and the wind, it is blowing toward the beach. That is good luck. We continue to search with hope,” he told media.

The New York Times reported that survivors held onto the ship as long as possible before they couldn’t grip it anymore and found themselves floundering in the sea.

Chief Petty Officer Natee Timdee said it was hard to keep his head above the water but added: “I thought about my mother. I cannot die, I still have to take care of her.”

Another naval officer who survived told his local TV network: “My heart couldn’t take it anymore, encountering this kind of event. You see people die in front of your eyes like this, and the ones who died are your friends. You went as a full team and returned incomplete.”

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