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(LEAD) No headway in search for 8 missing from capsized boat

All Headlines 17:58 September 07, 2015

(ATTN: ADDS search results in para 9; CHANGES headline)

JEJU, Sept. 7 (Yonhap) -- The Coast Guard, Navy and civilians combined their efforts Monday to search for eight people still missing from a capsized fishing boat off the country's south coast but no progress was made, officials said.

The death toll from the accident stood at 10, with eight people still unaccounted for and three others rescued, the Korea Coast Guard said.

The 9.77-ton boat called the Dolgorae, or Dolphin, was found about 6:25 a.m. Sunday near Chuja Island, north of the southern resort island of Jeju, the maritime security agency said. The boat lost contact with another chartered fishing boat around 7:38 p.m. Saturday, about half an hour after it left Chuja for Haenam, South Jeolla Province, it said.

Originally, the fishing boat was chartered for two days and was scheduled to return to Chuja late Sunday.

In the operations, 72 ships, including 25 coast guard vessels, seven naval vessels, another three from the local government in addition to nearly 40 private fishing boats were dispatched to the site of the accident, according to the Ministry of Public Safety and Security.

More than 20 divers were mobilized, including special forces from the coast guard, for underwater search operations.

The coast guard is carrying out search operations in a large circle around Seosaengi Island, where the survivors were found and 500 kilometers from the northeast part of Chuja Island, the last known location of the ill-fated boat.

As the waves were about two to three meters high with winds of up to 14 meters per second in the morning, the operations faced some difficulties.

Even with improved weather conditions in the afternoon, no one was found.

The coast guard said it has started an investigation into the boat's sinking. It said based on the testimony of survivors, the tragedy may have been caused by high waves or by the fishing vessel getting snarled in a rope of some kind.

Related to the tragedy, observers said that there were critical lapses in the reporting process that delayed rescue operations.

While it was around 7:40 a.m. that the boat last identified its location, it wasn't until 8:30 p.m., when the captain of another fishing boat that accompanied the Dolgorae reported the situation to authorities, that the vessel traffic service (VTS) or the coast guard became aware of the accident, coast guard officials said.

It took another 23 minutes before the Chuja safety center radioed the coast guard about the missing boat.

Coast guard officials said that after being notified of the boat's possible distress, the safety center could not get a fix on the boat and it wasted precious time trying to contact those on board by mobile phone. All such developments affected the time it took for rescuers to reach the stricken boat and the survivors.

Even after the coast guard was notified, it may have misjudged where the ship was, and sent ships and planes to the wrong area, observers said.

scaaet@yna.co.kr
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