China confirms 22 dead in tug boat sinking, including 4 S'poreans

Chinese authorities have confirmed that 22 people were killed after a tug boat undergoing sea trials sank in the Yangtze River, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported on Saturday (Jan 17).

The 30m-long boat had 25 people on board when it sank on Thursday. Three people were rescued.

All eight foreigners on board, including four Singaporeans, an Indonesian, a Malaysian, an Indian and a Japanese, died.

Rescuers found the body of the last missing person in the tug’s cockpit at around 2pm on Saturday, according to the Jiangsu Maritime Safety Administration (JMSD).

The boat was extracted from the depths on Saturday morning, 40 hours after it sunk in Fubei Channel, near Jingjiang City.

Rescuers on the tug boat on Jan 16. Photo: Reuters


One of the survivors, Mr Wang Zhenkai, told Xinhua reporters that he was the interpreter for a 60-year-old Japanese engineer.

"Only the two of us were in the cockpit. We had just finished the load test of the boat’s main engine when the vessel suddenly turned on its side. Water immediately flooded in," he said.

Mr Wang was saved at 5.36am on Friday after rescuers cut through the bottom of the boat.

He has been hospitalised and is in stable condition.

Mr Wang survived by clinging to a hydraulic pump. He said he grabbed the Japanese engineer, but the current later broke their grasp as the boat started to sink.

'Improper operations'

Initial investigations have found that the boat capsized due to "improper operations".

JMSD said the tugboat operators did not complete the compulsory procedures needed for trial operations, nor did they report the tug’s conditions to authorities.

The boat sank in the midst of a full circle swinging due to improper handling, it told Xinhua.

Rescuers on the tug boat on Jan 17. Photo: Reuters


Sembcorp Marine, a Singapore-based shipbuilder, said on Friday the tug boat that its subsidiary (Jurong Marine Services) had planned to charter sank during a sea trial. 

Three of the company’s employees were on board.

Sembcorp Marine is part of Sembcorp Industries, an industrial conglomerate.

Xinhua said the 368-tonne boat was built by Anhui Bengbu Shenzhou Machinery in October.

Sources: Reuters, Xinhua, AFP