Rescue teams have recovered two bodies and saved seven out of 13 crewmen from a coal freighter that was overturned off the coast of north-central Nghe An Province on Monday.
The vessel was queuing to unload its shipment at a local port when strong waves caused by tropical storm Talas flipped it, throwing those aboard into a violent sea.
The typhoon reached Nghe An and Ha Tinh Provinces at around 1:00 am on Monday, packing winds of up to 75 kilometers per hour with squalls of up to 102 kilometer per hour.
Cargo ship VTB 26, owned by the Vietnam Maritime Bank, was transporting nearly 4,800 tons of coal from Quang Ninh Province to Nghe An Province in northern Vietnam on Sunday evening.
At the time of the accident, the vessel was anchored near Ngu Island off the coast of Nghe An, reportedly waiting for its turn to enter Cua Lo Sea Port to unload its shipment.
A crewman of cargo ship VTB 26 is saved by rescue teams. Photo: Tuoi Tre
“At around 1:55 am on Monday large waves and strong winds suddenly escalated while we were anchored near Ngu Island,” recalled Ly Van Giang, 24, one of the rescued crewmen aboard the VTB 26. “The captain sounded the alarm and ordered all crew members to put on life vests and gather at the captain’s deck.”
“We had barely arrived at the deck when a huge wave hit the side of the ship,” Giang said. “Water crossed the deck, throwing each of us in different directions. As we were all caught by surprise, some of my colleagues didn’t have time to put on their life vests.”
Among the 13 people aboard the cargo ship at the time of accident were 12 crew members and one employee of the coal company who had boarded the ship to escort the shipment.
As of Tuesday morning, rescue teams had saved seven people from the overturned ship, including its captain Pham Van Hai, and recovered the bodies of two dead crewmen.
Four men remain missing despite search efforts that continued overnight and have now entered their second day.
Pham Van Hai, captain of cargo ship VTB 26, is brought ashore in a healthy condition. Photo: Tuoi Tre
According to Dinh Viet Hong, deputy chairman of Nghe An Province, the rescue teams priority is to find the missing crew. Efforts to salvage the ship and its cargo will come once all those missing have been found.
Search teams have expanded their search area to all waters from Thanh Hoa to Ha Tinh provinces.
The Nghe An administration has also opened an emergency hotline for people to call and inform authorities should they catch sight of those still missing.
As of 2:00 pm Monday, according to the search and rescue command of Nghe An, storm Talas had destroyed upwards of 3,600 homes and 14,000 hectares of crops in its path across north-central Vietnam.
Crewmen of cargo ship VTB 26 is saved by rescue teams. Photo: Tuoi Tre