Thailand’s prime minister attended funeral rites Thursday for six sailors who perished when their warship sank in stormy weather, leaving 23 others still missing.
The HTMS Sukhothai, a corvette in service for 35 years, capsized and sank Sunday night in the Gulf of Thailand with 105 people on board. As of late Thursday, 76 had been rescued and search operations were continuing for the 23 unaccounted for.
The bodies of the six dead were flown from the main rescue center in Prachuap Khiri Khan province to their home naval base at Sattahip in eastern Thailand for a Buddhist funeral ceremony.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha attended the ceremony after visiting hospitalized survivors. Prayuth, who is also defense minister, and the navy have come under criticism for the accident. The navy has acknowledged there were not enough life jackets on board because the ship was carrying guests in addition to its normal crew of 87 sailors and officers.
The navy said high waves buffeted the Sukhothai, causing seawater to enter the ship, knocking out its electrical system and making control of the vessel virtually impossible.
Other naval ships rushed to the area, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) offshore, to try to help but could not do much because of the rough seas. Since the ship could not be controlled, more water entered, causing it to list and sink.
Navy Chief of Staff Adm. Chonlathis Navanugraha said Thursday that the navy is continuing search and rescue operations around the clock even though more than three days have passed since the accident.
“Every minute is valuable. Those who are missing are our families. We miss our colleagues and brothers. Therefore, we will do our best all day and night,” he said.
The navy has set up a committee to investigate the accident, he said.