Thirty-one people are missing after a Royal Thai Navy warship sank in choppy waters and heavy winds in the Gulf of Thailand late Sunday, Thai officials said Monday. The vessel was patrolling about 32 km (20 miles) from Bang Saphan District in central Thailand at the time. Storms had been expected in the Gulf of Thailand, with ferry services suspended after meteorologists warned of high waves and heavy rain on Sunday and Monday.
Footage shared by the navy’s Twitter account showed crew members wrapped in blankets and receiving treatment after they had been rescued. Some were being airlifted to hospitals. Other images showed sailors from the Sukhothai in a life raft, having jumped from the sinking vessel.
The army kicked off a rescue mission with three other ships and two helicopters, with the HTMS Kraburi reaching the Sukhothai before it sank at about 11.30 p.m. the navy initially said all crew was considered safe, it released a later statement on Facebook saying that 31 people were still awaiting rescue in the water as of mid-morning Monday.
One unnamed crew member said he had been in the water for several hours before he was rescued. “The waves were quite high—about three meters when the ship sank,” he said in a clip shared on local media. “I put on the life jacket and jumped. “I swam for three hours.”
The incident marks the first sinking of a Thai warship since the Second World War, according to Thai media outlet Khaosod English when an American submarine torpedoed the HTMS Samui near Malaysia and killed 31 sailors.
The Sukhothai, equipped with a range of missiles, naval guns, and torpedoes, was commissioned in 1987 after being built in the US. The Thai navy also maintains six other corvettes, three of which were locally built, the US Naval Institute reported.