Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Fifteen Missing Sailors Found Inside Ukrainian Sunken Ship

The bodies of 15 missing sailors were found inside the Ukrainian Neftegaz 67 vessel, which sank in the Xianggang bay in late March. The bodies were taken to a morgue for identification. Water is being pumped out of the vessel. Once that is done, experts will assess the condition of the sunken ship and the possibility of towing it to the shore. The Neftegaz 67 was lifted with the help of Asia’s largest floating crane on Sunday. The wreck occurred near the Island of Lantau on March 22 through the collision with a large Chinese dry cargo ship. Seven out of 25 crewmembers of the Neftegaz 67 were rescued. Divers also found three dead bodies. The sunken vessel was lying upside down in a strong current at the depth of 37 meters. It was turned up on Monday and the fuel tanks were secured in order to avoid a leak. However, the hoisting operation was delayed several times because of bad weather. A fog and the strong current made it impossible to lift the vessel on Saturday. About 100 specialists, among them 30 divers, took part in the operation of the Chinese company Guangzhou Salvage. Ukraine was paying $250,000 per day for using the crane, while the entire cost of the hoisting operation was about $10 million. The Chinese company pledged to raise the sunken ship to the surface, pump away water, close the holes, keep the ship afloat, tow it to the shore and dispose of the scrap metal.
Neftegaz 67
The accident occurred in a strait between the Island of Lantau and the New Territories, four kilometers northeast of the international airport. A dry cargo ship en route from mainland China had a head collision with the Ukrainian ship en route from Shenzhen in the sick fog. The Ukrainian ship got a big hole in its hull and sank immediately. Seven people, including a Chinese citizen – a representative of the company that chartered the ship, were thrown overboard and picked up by rescuers. That was the largest wreck offshore Xianggang in the past decades. Chernomorneftegaz CEO Anatoly Prisyazhnyuk said that families of the missing crewmembers would receive aid. “We will give them financial and humanitarian assistance ensured by our laws and extra,” he said. “I think that our company can give assistance not only to wives but also to children if, God forbid, they lose their breadwinners.” Meanwhile, families of the Neftegaz 67 crewmembers accused Chinese rescue services and the Ukrainian government of the insufficiently active search-and-rescue effort. The Ukrainian governmental commission went to Xianggang only two days after the shipwreck. The largest floating crane in Asia, which was due to hoist the vessel on March 28, was late to arrive to the wreck scene. There was no search party on land. Some family members said they had tried to call their husbands by mobile phone but received answers in Chinese.

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