PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Cambodian authorities were searching Friday for more than 20 people in the Gulf of Thailand after their boat sank near Cambodia’s Koh Tang island, authorities said.
The small fishing vessel with 41 Chinese nationals on board foundered near the island on Thursday and video apparently shot from a rescue boat showed many on board crowded at the bow as the stern began to dip under the water.
Eighteen people were rescued at the time but another 23 were reported missing. One of them was found alive on Friday and another was found dead, according to provincial police chief Gen. Chuon Narin.
It was not immediately clear where the boat sailed from or what it was doing off of Cambodia’s west coast. Authorities said, however, that two Cambodians who had been sailing the boat abandoned it after its engine broke down and fled in another boat that came to pick them up, leaving the passengers behind.
They have both been arrested and are now being questioned by police, authorities said.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told reporters that his government is in close communication with Cambodian authorities.
“We urge the Cambodian side to spare no efforts to search and rescue the missing and find out what happened swiftly,” he said.
Cambodian authorities sought to enlist the assistance of private boat operators in the area, announcing a $500 reward for each passenger rescued.
Survivor Chengui Sheng told authorities that there had been 38 men and three women on board when the ship began to sink at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, provincial spokesperson Kheang Phearom said.
The people rescued have been taken to a nearby Cambodian naval base, he said.