The Royal Thai Navy said Monday that search and rescue personnel were still trying to save 31 sailors who were thrown into the Gulf of Thailand overnight when a naval ship sank after being suddenly flooded with water and losing power.
In a series of posts on Facebook and Twitter, naval officials said that the ship, known as the HTMS Sukhothai, had been on patrol about 20 miles from a port in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province when gusty winds and strong waves caused the ship’s hull to tilt.
As the 35-year-old boat swayed, officials said, some seawater flowed into the electrical system through an exhaust pipe, causing a power outage that rendered the ship’s machinery and steering mechanisms useless. As the crew lost control of the ship, officials said, more water rapidly filled the hull, causing the HTMS Sukhothai to tilt further.
The crew called for help, and the Royal Navy dispatched other boats and helicopters to the scene. But the HTMS Sukhothai sank just after midnight, officials said. By about 1 a.m., helicopters had arrived and released rescue rafts, a Thai Navy spokesman said, adding that more than 70 of the 106 crew members had been secured.
As of about 10 a.m. local time on Monday, the spokesman, Admiral Pokkrong Monthatpalin, said that the authorities were still trying to rescue 31 naval officers.
In a telephone interview with The New York Times, Adm. Monthatpalin said that the dark of night had made it difficult to determine whether every officer had made it to a boat during early rescue efforts. But he said that all of the officers, including those still in the water, should have been wearing a life vest.
“Our main priority now is to search and rescue our fellow boatmen,” Mr. Monthatpalin said. “All of them.”
Most of the more than 70 people who the spokesman said had been rescued as of Monday morning were taken to a nearby port, officials said; some were taken to a hospital for treatment; others were taken to a shelter.
The HTMS Sukhothai was out on normal patrol duty to monitor potential weather hazards. Once all 31 sailors have been rescued, the navy will set about trying to rescue the ship itself, Adm. Monthatpalin said. “We have to be really careful because there’s fuel in the ship,” he added. “We don’t want to have an oil spill. We have to be really careful about that.”