39 Missing After Chinese Fishing Boat Capsizes

A cargo ship spotted the upturned hull in the Indian Ocean.

China's Ambassador to Australia Xiao Qian speaks to media at the Embassy of China in Canberra, May 18, 2023.
China's Ambassador to Australia Xiao Qian speaks to media at the Embassy of China in Canberra, May 18, 2023.
Lukas Coch/AAP Image via AP

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — A Chinese envoy asked Australian authorities on Thursday to increase efforts to find survivors in the search for 39 crew members who were aboard a Chinese fishing boat that capsized in the Indian Ocean, as Chinese media reported two bodies had been recovered.

"We wish that they could send more — more aircraft, more ships and more staff," Ambassador to Australia Xiao Qian told reporters. "We wish that our Australian colleagues would coordinate with other international or foreign vessels or ships near that area … to help the search and rescue to save as many lives as possible."

Xiao said China wanted to coordinate with "friendly countries," including Australia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, in the search and rescue effort.

The search coordinator, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, said three aircraft and seven ships including three Chinese navy ships were involved in the search in the center of the Indian Ocean on Thursday. A Sri Lankan navy ship was also heading for the scene, the authority said in a statement.

Two days after the capsize of the Lu Peng Yuan Yu 028, the authority "remains hopeful for a successful outcome, however the time elapsed combined with the weather conditions experienced make survival more challenging," it said.

Two bodies were pulled from the ocean on Thursday afternoon by the Chinese navy, China's official Xinhua News Agency reported. No survivors or life rafts have been spotted.

The upturned hull was spotted Tuesday from a cargo ship 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles) northwest of the Australian west coast city of Perth, the Australian search coordinator said.

Chinese authorities say the missing crew includes 17 from China, 17 from Indonesia and five from the Philippines.

India, whose ties with China have been strained by a deadly border dispute, said it sent reconnaissance planes to help in the search.

The aircraft "have carried out multiple and extensive searches despite adverse weather and located multiple objects possibly belonging to the sunken vessel," navy spokesman Commander Vivek Mehul said in a statement.

On Wednesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Qiang ordered Chinese diplomats, as well as the agriculture and transportation ministries, to assist in the search for survivors.

The search authority said the multinational search effort continued Thursday over an area of 12,000 square kilometers (4,600 square miles) south of where the upturned hull was found.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Chinese and international agencies remained positive about the search and rescue operation.

"The Chinese government expressed its sincere gratitude and high appreciation. The relevant search and rescue operations are still ongoing." Wang said at a daily briefing in Beijing.

The capsized boat was based in the eastern coastal province of Shandong and operated by Penglai Jinglu Fishery Co. Ltd.

Another Chinese vessel, Lu Peng Yuan Yu 018, had been operating near the upturned hull and continued to search on Thursday, the Australian authority said.

More in Safety