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  China goes all out to find 16 missing ROK sailors  



BEIJING -- China vowed Tuesday to spare no efforts to find the 16 sailors missing after a Republic of Korea (ROK) vessel collided with a Saint Vincent-registered container ship and sank off east China's coast Saturday morning.

Eight of the 16 sailors are ROK nationals, seven are from Myanmar and the other one is Indonesian.

Battling winds gusting up to 60 kilometers per hour, Chinese rescuers on Tuesday enlarged the search area off the coast of Yantai City, east China's Shandong Province, according to a spokesman with China's Ministry of Communications.

More than 200 Chinese ships and three aircraft have joined the search mission, and China has invited ROK authorities to send rescue boats and coast guard vessels, the spokesman said.

Relatives of the missing ROK sailors arrived in Yantai on Tuesday, the spokesman said.

"We will not give up (our efforts) as long as there is a ray of hope," Han Lupeng, deputy director of the Yantai Maritime Affairs Bureau, told the relatives.

The ROK ship "Golden Rose" sank off the coast near Yantai City, after colliding with the Saint Vincent-registered "Jinsheng", a container ship operated by Shandong Lufeng Shipping Company Ltd. The collision occurred around 3:00 a.m. in fog on Saturday.

The "Golden Rose", loaded with 5,900 tons of steel, was en route from northeast China's Liaoning Province to ROK, while the "Jinsheng" was sailing from Yantai to Liaoning's port city of Dalian.

After the accident, the "Jinsheng" continued to steam toward port, arriving at Dayao Bay in Dalian at 2:50 p.m. on Saturday. It is not known why the container ship failed to stop and help the stricken vessel.

The Yantai Maritime Affairs Bureau received the collision report from the Shandong Lufeng Shipping Company Ltd. at 11:40 a.m. on Saturday, and company officials said the "Jinsheng" had no contact with the "Golden Rose" before or after the collision, according to Luo Yonghong, deputy director of the Navigation Department with the Yantai bureau.

"Normally, maritime affairs authorities are informed as soon as a sea accident occurs. This case is obviously an exception, because we did not receive any information immediately after the accident," Han Lupeng said.

According to international maritime practice, a ship must always go to the rescue of a stricken vessel and also send out SOS signals, but both ships failed to do so, according to the official.

"Chinese authorities are puzzled about exactly what happened," Han said.

Han deduced that the "Golden Rose" probably sank very fast and had no time to send signals, but added that people would have to wait for the results of the investigation.

The crew of the "Jinsheng" are being spoken to by investigators from the Liaoning Maritime Affairs Bureau and ship operators are being questioned in Shandong.

State Councilor Hua Jianmin has demanded "an all-out effort" to find the missing sailors.

The area where the sunken ship went down was identified on Monday afternoon, and the location is pinpointed at 38 degrees 14.45 minutes north latitude, 121 degrees 41.92 minutes east longitude, according to the Shandong Marine Affairs Bureau.

The ship is now lying on its side 47 meters under the sea, the bureau said.

To date, Chinese rescuers have found two life rafts, four life rings, traces of fuel oil and other debris that are confirmed to be from the "Golden Rose," but there is still no trace of the missing sailors.

Experts said that with an average sea temperature in the area of the collision of about 13.6 degrees Celsius, the chances of survival two days after the accident are slim.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said on Tuesday that China will settle issues concerning the tragedy in accordance with international pacts and laws, and in a responsible and humanitarian spirit.

"As long as there is one percent hope for the survival of the missing sailors, China will exert one hundred percent effort in the rescue work," she told a regular press conference.





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