Missing Vietnamese ship sank, says sole survivor

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One crew member of the Vietnamese ship which went missing with 23 people onboard off the coast of the Philippines on Sunday has been rescued, VnExpress reported Friday.

The newswire quoted Nguyen Anh Vu, director general of Vietnam Maritime Search and Rescue Coordination Center (VMSRCC), as saying that Dau Ngoc Hung, 31, was rescued by the UK-owned London Courage ship, which was on its way to Singapore.

Hung, believed to be the only survivor, was found drifting on Friday morning on a lifeboat some 350 kilometers from the site where Vinalines Queen was located before it went missing, Vu said.

He quoted Hung as saying that the ship, which was carrying 54,000 tons of nickel ore, sank at around 7 a.m. on December 25 after it titled too much to the left.

"The ship sank very quickly," the official said. "A lifeboat on its right side was released, but only Hung managed to get on it and had been drifting since then."

The rescued sailor was in good health, he added.

According to the VnExpress report, VMSRCC had informed rescue forces in the Philippines, Japan, Taiwan, and nearby countries and territories, asking them to help search for the ship and the victims.

Vinalines Queen, one of the largest ships of the state-owned Vietnam National Shipping Lines (Vinalines), was lost at 20-00N; 123-47.1E, to the northeast of the Luzon Island on December 25. The waters were estimated to be some 5,000 meters deep.

Vinalines said before disappearing, the ship had tilted 18 degrees. About an hour earlier, the vessel also reported that it had tilted 20 degrees due to unknown reasons, and that it was being buffetted by strong winds.

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Since then foreign rescue forces have been searching for the ship, which was on its way from Morowali in Indonesia to Ningde in China but they could not find anything, except an oil streak nearby the site. On December 29, all rescue efforts were halted.

According to Vinalines, the ship was built in Japan in 2005 and has an advanced self-protection system that can send out emergency signals in dangerous situations. This would allow rescuers to detect its location even when it was under water.

However, since it went missing, Vinalines Queen has not sent any signal, officials said.

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