JUNEAU, Alaska — Ongoing search efforts at the site where a fishing ship sank in the Bering Sea, killing at least 27 people, likely will be measured in weeks, not days, a representative of the South Korean government said Thursday.
Moon Duk-ho, the consul general for South Korea in Seattle, received a briefing on search efforts from U.S. Coast Guard officials in Juneau and later spoke with reporters along with Rear Adm. Dan Abel, commander of the Coast Guard in Alaska.
The Coast Guard has been involved in the search effort since Dec. 1, after receiving word of the sinking of the South Korean fishing vessel Oryong 501 in Russian waters.
The incident happened close enough to a boundary line that the guard was allowed to respond. The agency, which currently has the cutter Alex Haley on scene, plans to remain involved in search and rescue planning once South Korean officials take over.
The South Korean vessel Sambong was moving faster than expected and was on pace to arrive on scene Friday, Abel said. The Alex Haley will probably remain on site a few extra days to aid in the transition, he said.
Moon said he considered the pending arrival of the Sambong as another beginning in search and rescue work.
South Korea also is basing search planes out of Joint Base Elemendorf-Richardson in Anchorage. The Coast Guard has members there to discuss the search with their South Korean partners, Abel said.
Seven people survived the sinking of the Oryong 501. The remains of 27 people have been recovered, while another 26 remain unaccounted for, Abel said.
Moon said there would be an investigation into the deaths, which come months after the sinking of a ferry that killed more than 300 people off South Korea's southwestern coast in April.
The South Korean government last month ended underwater searches for nine bodies that remained missing from the ferry disaster.