Russia finds empty lifeboats from sunken South Korea fishing boat; 52 still missing

Fishing vessel Oryong 501 operated by Sajo Industries, which sank in the Bering Sea on Monday, is seen in this undated picture provided by Sajo Industries and released by Yonhap on Dec 1, 2014. Rescuers have recovered four empty lifeboats from t
Fishing vessel Oryong 501 operated by Sajo Industries, which sank in the Bering Sea on Monday, is seen in this undated picture provided by Sajo Industries and released by Yonhap on Dec 1, 2014. Rescuers have recovered four empty lifeboats from the vessel, a Russian official said Tuesday, as hope faded of finding 52 people missing in the icy cold waters. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

MOSCOW (AFP) - Rescuers have recovered four empty lifeboats from the South Korea fishing vessel that sank off Russia's far eastern coast, a Russian official said Tuesday, as hope faded of finding 52 people missing in the icy cold waters.

"Four torn lifeboats were found," said Oleg Karev of the marine rescue centre in the port of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky which is participating in the rescue mission. Rescuers also saw one dead body floating in the area but were not able to recover it due to storm conditions, he said.

The 1,753-tonne Oryong 501 trawler, operated by South Korea's Sajo Industries, was carrying 60 people when it went down in the western Bering Sea early on Monday morning. Those onboard included one Russian inspector, 11 South Koreans, 35 Indonesians and 13 Philippine crew members.

One Korean sailor was confirmed dead and his body recovered, while the Russian inspector and six foreign crew members were rescued.

Four ships, including two associated with Sajo, have been combing the site, a spokesman for Sajo Industries said, but the search was being hampered by poor weather conditions, rough seas and shrinking daylight period.

Russian authorities told news agencies that a US plane Hercules S-130 also flew over the accident area on Tuesday morning but was not able to see anything due to a snowstorm. The 36-year-old trawler was fishing for pollack when it sank in stormy weather.