After recovering 14 bodies, SL Navy ends rescue operation of capsized Chinese vessel

International |  IANS  | Published :

Colombo, May 24 (IANS) After the recovery of 14 bodies, the Sri Lankan Navy has ended a search and rescue operation to assist the ongoing operations of a capsized Chinese deep-sea fishing vessel.

The vessel, which capsized on May 16 in the central Indian Ocean, had 39 people on board missing -- 17 Chinese mariners, 17 Indonesian mariners and five Philippine mariners.

Navy spokesman Captain Gayan Wickramasuriya told IANS that after a crucial mission, divers recovered 14 bodies trapped inside the vessel that hadcapsized over 700 nautical miles off from Sri Lanka.

"Navy divers located 12 more bodies of the crew members inside the vessel and the operation was handed over to the Chinese salvage team that arrived on MV Shandong De Long.

"Due to decomposition and the potential health hazards posed by operating in contaminated waters with limited protective gear, it was determined that retrieving those bodies would be exceedingly dangerous. Next, the decision was made to map the locations of the bodies, while prioritizing the safety of the Sri Lanka Navy divers," the spokesman said.

He said that a comprehensive briefing on the mapped locations of corpses, safe passages for divers to enter and exit the overturned vessel as well as the onward action was given to the Chinese salvage team.

The Navy launched the operation after the Chinese government sought assistance from five countries in the region including India, Australia and Sri Lanka.

Responding to Beijing request for support, the Indian Navy had deployed its "Air MR assets" in the southern Indian Ocean region.

The vessel had capsized within Australia's vast search-and-rescue region and the location was 5,000 km to the west of Perth.

Australia also sent three aeroplanes and four ships to help in the international search-and-rescue efforts.

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