Chinese envoy asks Australia to increase search for 39 aboard capsized fishing boat in Indian Ocean


Canberra (AP) — A Chinese envoy asked Australian authorities Thursday to increase efforts to find survivors in an Indian Ocean search for 39 crew members missing from a capsized Chinese fishing boat.

Ambassador to Australia Xiao Qian said the Australian authority had already sent four airplanes and three ships to the search area, which is in the center of the Indian Ocean.

No survivors or life rafts have been spotted.

Xiao said China wanted to coordinate with “friendly countries,” including Australia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, on the search and rescue effort following the capsizing Tuesday. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority, the search coordinator, said 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.

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

“We wish that they could send more — more aircraft, more ships and more staff,” Xiao told reporters, referring to Australian authorities. “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.”

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.

Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines have also expressed their willingness to join in the search, and merchant and fishing vessels in the area searched for survivors Wednesday.

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

An Australian military P-8A Poseiden aircraft and a chartered aircraft based in Perth would rejoin the search after spending the night in the Maldives, the authority said in a statement. Australia was liaising with the Chinese Maritime Rescue Coordination Center, with three Chinese naval ships continuing the search.

“A number of merchant ships and other vessels have been assisting with the search and will continue to do so today,” the statement said.

The authority would not reveal how many ships and aircraft were involved in the search. “We are not supplying that level of detail at this stage,” the authority said in an email.

Transport Minister Catherine King, who is responsible for the search authority, was traveling overseas and was not available for comment, her office said.

No word was given on the cause of the capsizing.

The capsized boat, Lu Peng Yuan Yu 028, was based in the eastern coastal province of Shandong, operated by the Penglai Jinglu Fishery Co. Ltd., according to reports. Another Chinese vessel, Lu Peng Yuan Yu 018, is operating near to the upturned hull and has been asked to conduct a grid search for survivors, according to Indonesian authorities.

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