Ship sinks between S. Korea and Japan; 11 found unconscious

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Ships searching in wind-whipped waters between South Korea and Japan have picked up at least 12 of the 22 crewmembers from a cargo ship that sank early Wednesday. Officials said only one of them remained conscious, but they did not immediately confirm any deaths.

South Korean and Japanese coast guard vessels and aircraft as well as two commercial cargo ships were continuing to search for the 10 missing crewmembers but the efforts were being slowed by strong winds and waves, South Korean officials said.

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The 6,551-ton Jin Tan sank about three and a half hours after it sent a distress call at around 11:15 p.m. Tuesday in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, Japanese coast guard spokesperson Shinya Kitahara said.

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The vessel, which was Hong Kong registered and carrying lumber, sank about 160 kilometers (100 miles) southwest of Nagasaki, Japan, and about 150 kilometers (93 miles) south of South Korea’s Jeju island.

The captain last communicated with the coast guard through a satellite phone around 2:41 a.m., saying crewmembers would abandon the ship, minutes before it sank, Jeju island coast guard officials said.

Six crewmembers were picked up by South Korean coast guard vessels, while a cargo ship picked up five and a Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force vessel picked up one, according to Jeju’s coast guard.

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According to South Korean and Japanese officials, 14 crewmembers are Chinese and eight are from Myanmar.

Kitahara, who confirmed the rescue of at least four crewmembers, said the cause of the ship’s sinking was not immediately known and that there were no signs that it collided with another vessel. He said the arrivals of Japanese patrol boats and aircraft were delayed by rough weather following the sinking.

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Yamaguchi reported from Tokyo.

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