2 more bodies found in deadly Vietnam fishing boat accident

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Survivors from a shipping boat sunk off the Vung Tau coast by a Singaporean cargo vessel being brought ashore Tuesday

Vietnamese rescuers Wednesday found the bodies of two of the seven fishermen who were missing after a collision between a Singaporean cargo vessel and a fishing boat earlier this week, taking the death toll to three.

The bodies were found nine nautical sea miles from the site of the accident that had occurred 54 miles off the coast of Vung Tau city Monday.

Authorities had earlier feared that the missing people were stuck in the fishing boat which broke into two and sank after the collision with the 20,000-ton plus Sima Sapphire.

Tuoi Tre newspaper quoted Le Van Chien, director of the Maritime Administration of Vung Tau, as saying the accident possibly happened because the ship was in 'autopilot' when it crashed into the anchored fishing boat.

Since it took place early in the morning, all 16 fishermen were probably sleeping without anyone on guard, he said.

The Singaporean ship's crew rescued eight people from the boat, and one body was retrieved later the same day.

The boat has been found 31-34 meters underwater south of Vung Tau.

It was trapped amid fishing nets and nearly 60 other fishermen have been trying to cut the nets to find the victims, Pham Hien, director of the Marine Search and Rescue Center No. 3, told Thanh Nien.

Though helicopters and rescue boats have been mobilized, heavy seas caused by a tropical depression and monsoon winds have hampered rescue efforts, authorities said.

Meanwhile, experts from the administration have taken Sima Sapphire's black box, sampled paint from its hull for testing, and questioned its captain and crew, Chien told Thanh Nien.

The ship, which had been headed for Malaysia, is anchored at Cai Mep Port in Vung Tau for investigation.

Authorities have also questioned the survivors, four of whom were sent to hospital for observation Tuesday. Some of them told the media they were exhausted after spending an hour in the water before being rescued.

Vo Van Thanh, 36, one of the survivors along with his son Vo Van Be, 13, told Thanh Nien he was sleeping when there was a big bang.

Everyone on board fell into the water, and the boat was totally destroyed and sank immediately, he said.

He managed to find an object to cling on to and rescue his son, who had been working aboard as a cabin boy for two years.

The boat's owner, Nguyen Van Hon, who lives in the Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang, told Thanh Nien that the vessel and crew had left July 26 and were expected to be at sea for two months.  

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