Crew members aboard a Taiwanese fishing vessel in the Indian Ocean were held by their crewmates yesterday after a verbal conflict between two Philippine crew members escalated into a physical confrontation, witnesses said.
Twenty-four people were aboard the Wen Peng, including three Taiwanese, 10 Filipinos and 11 Indonesians, the Fisheries Agency said.
The three Taiwanese were captain Chen Chen-mao (陳振茂), chief engineer Kao Hsin-kuang (高信光) and observer Yang Wen-pin (楊文斌), an agency official, it said.
Photo copied by Chen Yen-ting, Taipei Times
Two Philippine crew members were engaged in a verbal conflict when one stabbed and killed the other at about 2am, sources said.
The assailant then reportedly threw the victim’s body overboard and ordered more than 10 crew members to jump into the water, they said.
Chen, Kao and two Philippine crew members were able to protect themselves by locking themselves inside a cabin, sources said, but were unable to confirm Yang’s safety.
The agency and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that they requested assistance from Mauritian officials and other nearby vessels.
At about 3pm, a Taiwanese fishing vessel named Hung Fu No. 88 and the Australian commercial vessel Stahla spotted Wen Peng and began rescue efforts, agency Deputy Director-General Lin Kuo-ping (林國平) said.
Rescuers were able to pull four Philippine crew members from the water, the ministry said.
The rescued crew said that more than 10 people had either fallen or jumped overboard, and that Chen, Kao, Yang and others were being held by their crewmates, the agency said.
Rescuers from Hung Fu No. 88 said they suspect that some of the crew members had negotiated a deal to be spared, Wen Peng owner Chen Sheng-fu (陳勝富) told the Chinese-language Apple Daily.
The rescuers said they witnessed six or seven crew members walking on the deck, while Chen Chen-mao appeared to have been forced out of the captain’s cabin, and Kao and two other crew members were locked in a separate cabin, Chen Sheng-fu said.
Since Hung Fu No. 88 is not equipped with arms, it sent out an SOS, Cheng Sheng-fu said.
Australian military aircraft arrived at about 6pm to join the rescue efforts, the ministry said.
As of press time last night, the incident had reportedly resulted in one death and one severe injury, although people fear there could be more victims, due to the water’s cold temperature in the morning.
Wen Peng is a 255-tonne tuna fishing vessel registered in Pingtung County’s Donggang Township (東港) that earlier this month departed Port Louis, Mauritius, to operate in the Indian Ocean.
According to international regulations, an observer must be aboard to collect data on fishing behavior and catch type, the agency said.
Additional reporting by Lu Yi-hsuan
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