At least 13 of the 22 crew members of a cargo ship flying the flag of Hong Kong were rescued after it sank between South Korea and Japan, ravaged by winter storms and freezing temperatures.
South Korean officials reported on Wednesday that coast guard vessels and aircraft from the two countries were searching for nine missing crew members in turbulent waters despite being impeded by heavy winds and waves.
The cargo ship Jin Tan carrying 14 Chinese and 8 Myanmar nationals, sank early Wednesday morning, according to the Japanese coast guard.
It transmitted a distress signal at approximately 11:15 p.m. on Tuesday. According to a Japanese coast guard spokesperson, it sank about three and a half hours later in Japan's exclusive economic zone.
The ship transporting hardwood cargo sank around 2:40 a.m., approximately 160 kilometres (100 miles) southwest of Nagasaki, Japan and about 150 kilometres (93 miles) south of Jeju island, South Korea.
Japanese government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno stated that the coast guard "is also seeking cooperation from the Self-Defense Forces, the South Korean coast guard, and vessels sailing near the waters."
He stated at a press conference that the five recovered crew members were all Chinese but that he had no further information about their condition.
At 2:41 a.m., the ship's skipper confirmed to the coast guard that the crew would leave the boat, according to Jeju island coast guard officials.
Officials reported that only one of the thirteen people who recovered was conscious, but they did not immediately confirm any fatalities.
A total of seven crew members were rescued by South Korean coast guard vessels and a cargo ship. Jeju's coast guard reports that a boatJapanese Maritime Self-Defense Force vessel rescued one individual.
The ship sank a day after Japan's western regions were battered by winter storms that brought frigid temperatures and strong winds. Tuesday saw the cancellation of hundreds of flights between the Japanese city of Nagasaki and the South Korean island of Jeju due to severe weather conditions.
According to Bloomberg, the ship's beneficial owner is Shenzhen Shekou Shipping Transportation Co, a Guangdong Province corporation.
The ship departed Papua New Guinea for the port of Incheon in South Korea at the beginning of January.
A representative for the Japanese coast guard stated that the cause of the ship's sinking was not immediately identified. There are no indications of a collision between the cargo ship and another vessel or object.