Thailand’s navy said Sunday that the death toll from the sinking of one of its warships earlier in the week had risen to 18.
The HTMS Sukhothai sank in severe weather early Monday, leaving dozens of its crew missing in stormy seas in the Gulf of Thailand.
11 officers remain missing, the Royal Thai Navy said in an update Sunday. Of the 105 on board the ship at the time of the disaster, 76 have been rescued.
The ship was carrying 30 more people than usual at the time of its sinking, and there were not enough life jackets for all of them, the commander-in-chief of the Royal Thai Navy Adm. Cherngchai Chomcherngpat said Tuesday.
The extra officers were aboard because the ship was taking part in a salute to the founder of the Thai navy, Cherngchai said. The crew were “fully aware about the problem of not having enough life jackets for 30 additional officers. They tried to use other tools which could save the lives of officers who didn’t have life jackets,” Cherngchai added.
Some of those without life jackets tried to escape on inflatable rafts, some of which were stored aboard the HTMS Sukhothai and some of which were dropped by rescue helicopters and other ships.
“With or without life jacket (it) doesn’t affect the odds of surviving,” the admiral said.
He said the ship sank after seawater entered and disabled its power systems.
Waves were between 3 and 4 meters (10 feet to 13 feet) high at the time and the water temperature was about 29 degrees Celsius (84 degrees Fahrenheit).
Water entered the front portion of the 252-foot (76.8-meter) long warship around 8:45 p.m. Sunday, Cherngchai said.
The flooding continued for more than three hours, eventually disabling the ship’s engine and electrical systems and dooming efforts to pump it out.
Rescue teams in helicopters tried to lower water pumps to the ship but the efforts were thwarted as the vessel began to tilt heavily.
The admiral dismissed a suggestion that the almost 40-year-old ship might not have been in proper shape to handle the high seas, saying it had been upgraded several times in recent years.