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SEOUL, Dec 2 (Reuters) – More than 50 people remain missing a day after a South Korean fishing vessel sank in the Bering Sea off the coast of Russia’s far eastern Chukotka region as severe weather conditions hampered a rescue operation, officials said on Tuesday.
Eight people – a Russian official, a South Korean crew member, three Filipinos and three Indonesians – have been pulled from the water although the South Korean died of hypothermia, officials in Seoul said.
U.S. rescue helicopters joined the search operation for several hours on Tuesday but failed to make headway, South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won told a meeting of government officials.
The South Korean government and Sajo Industries, the vessel’s operator, said there were 60 people on board, including 11 South Koreans, 13 Filipinos and 35 Indonesians.
Artur Rets, the head of the maritime rescue service in Russia’s far eastern port of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, had said on Monday that records showed 62 people on board.
“When the fish were being hauled in, the vessel was hit by a wave,” Rets said, adding that the South Korean vessel, the Oriong-501, had sunk.
The 36-year-old vessel was one of a large fleet of ships operated by Sajo Industries, which owns the world’s largest number of tuna fishing vessels, according to its Website.
Sajo, founded in 1971 and initially focused on trawling and tuna fishing, has expanded into food and meat processing and runs a golf resort.
The company’s shares fell 3.5 percent on Tuesday in their highest volume in nearly four years. They had climbed to a 17-month high the day before, after the company reported operating profit more than doubled to 44.6 billion won ($40.2 million) in the first three quarters of this year from a year earlier. (1 US dollar = 1,109.7200 Korean won) (Reporting by Jack Kim in Seoul; Additional reporting by Tatyana UStinova in Moscow; Editing by Edmund Klamann)
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