Parents mourn after sons drown in freezing waters

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Twenty people rescued, 22 presumed dead as South Korean fishing boat sinks off Antarctica


Nguyen Thi Ngan mourns the death of her son Nguyen Van Son, who was among four Vietnamese men presumed dead and missing after a South Korean trawler sank near Antarctica on Monday

 "Why is it so unfair? A poor one who has to work away from home is killed."

Nguyen Tuan was disconsolate, as was his wife, Dang Thi Lan. "Oh my poor son! We've lost you now," she wailed.

After finishing high school their eldest son, Nguyen Tuong, had took a job that would take him far away from his family so that they could escape dire poverty.

Tuong was one of the five people confirmed dead on Monday when Korean fishing vessel No.1 InSung sank into freezing waters near the South Pole.

Tuong's end came more than three months after his family took out loans worth VND15 million (US$769) to pay his way onto the ship.

Tuong's uncle, Nguyen Song Hao is among members of the crew still listed as missing, and whose survival has been ruled out.

Cries of grief resounded in the two small communes of Ky Khang and Ky Ninh in Ha Tinh Province's Ky Anh District as relatives mourned the deaths of their relatives.

The tragedy occured on December 13 when the fishing boat No.1 InSung sank about 1,850 kilometers north of Antarctica and 2,700 kilometers south of New Zealand.

The New Zealand Rescue Coordination Center said that the cause of the wreck remains unknown. No distress call had been made.

Among 42 people on board, twenty were rescued by a nearby ship. Five were killed and 17 others were listed as missing.

Pham Quang Tuyen, first secretary of the Vietnamese Embassy in South Korea told Thanh Nien that Tuong had died and that Nguyen Van Son, Nguyen Song Hao and Nguyen Van Thanh (all from Ha Tinh's Ky Anh District) were still missing.

Nguyen Song Hao, an official in Ky Anh District's Ky Phu Commune, said many locals have left to work abroad in recent years in the hope of escaping poverty.

"More than 500 residents have been sent to work abroad, of whom 100 are working on Korean ships. Eight of them have died, mostly in Taiwan and Malaysia. So far, no one had died while working in South Korea," he said.

"Many have had to borrow money to pay the fees for getting the jobs."

When Thanh Nien visited the house of one of the missing men, Nguyen Van Son on Tuesday, his mother and wife were already mourning.

His mother, Nguyen Thi Ngan, said Son had gotten married two years ago. He went to South Korea to work and make money to support his family.

"He went to work when his wife was pregnant. Now his one-year-old son has lost his father," a neighbor said.

Not far from Son's house in Ky Anh District, Nguyen Van Thanh's parents were distraught.

"We hoped he could have survived when learning about the shipwreck yesterday. But today I was told that he was missing and the rescuers said that he is dead. It's very painful," Thanh's father cried.

The New Zealand Rescue Coordination Center said that information from the ship carrying the survivors suggested the boat sank quickly, giving the crew no time to put on life jackets or immersion suits, Reuters reported.

The search has been scaled back and only three South Korean vessels are looking for the missing men. Two New Zealand vessels have stopped searching and an aircraft will not be sent, the center said.

"Unfortunately, given the short survival times in water of those temperatures and the length of time it would take for the... aircraft to reach the search area, it was not a viable option," said rescue center controller Dave Wilson.

The water temperature is about two degrees Celsius (35 degrees Fahrenheit) which means someone would survive for about 10 minutes without proper equipment, the center said.

The search was called off after almost 30 hours because "there was no reasonable expectation that any further survivors would be found," Wilson said in a statement.

FAMILIES TO BE COMPENSATED

According to the Vietnamese Department of the Overseas Labor Management, there were 11 Vietnamese sailors, aged 19- 35, onboard the sunken boat.

Four people were believed dead and seven people have been rescued.

The men were sent by five Vietnamese manpower exporting agencies LOD, TRAENCO, CIENCO No.1, SOWATCO, and TTLC. LOD, to the Korean firm In Sung Corporation, which owned the ship. The laborers were paid between $200-1,000 per month.

Dao Cong Hai, deputy director of the Department of the Overseas Labor Management, said they asked the companies to send their people to South Korea.

The department has also contacted Vietnamese embassies in South Korea and New Zealand to get more information, and requested assistance in dealing with the case, he said.

The body of Nguyen Tuong could be sent back to Vietnam or incinerated if his family wishes. The embassy is working with relevant South Korean agencies and the boat's owner to ask them to pay adequate compensation to the victims' families, he said.

Pham Anh Thang of the Labor Management Department under the Vietnamese Embassy in South Korea, said families of the victims would receive compensation from the boat's owner based on the terms of their contracts.

Le Nhat Tan, vice director of the firm LOD, said among five workers it had sent to work on the boat, one died and another was missing.

On Wednesday, senior company officials visited Nghe An and Ha Tinh to express their condolences. Tan said his firm would offer them assistance of VND5 million ($238) each. All the five workers were insured by a Vietnamese insurer, so the families of the dead could get insurance of $13,000 each, he said.

On Wednesday, Thang told Thanh Nien Weekly that the rescue ship had not yet returned to New Zealand. Once it does, relevant agencies will decide whether to send Vietnamese survivors home or on to South Korea to deal with related issues.

Reported by Bao Van

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