22 fishermen feared dead after South Korean vessel sinks in icy Antarctic Ocean waters

Twenty-two fishermen are feared dead after a South Korean boat sank in the icy waters of the  Antarctic Ocean in the early hours of this morning.

Twenty survivors were rescued after the 614-ton vessel

went under some 1,400 miles south of New Zealand about halfway to Antarctica, South Korea's Foreign Ministry said.

But anyone who fell into such waters would typically would be dead in 10 minutes without special suits or lifejackets, New Zealand's rescue coordination centre said.

Sunk: It is not initially known why the South Korean fishing boat, Number One Insung, went under in the early hours of Monday

Some smaller fishing boats in the area did frantically search for the missing men from the boat,  Number One Insung, though hopes of their survival receded as the day bore on.

Ross Henderson, a spokesperson for Maritime New Zealand, said all vessels in the remote area had been told to go to the site to help search for survivors after the incident was reported.

'We were fortunate that there were a number of vessels in the general area, so they were able to provide for survivors,' he said, though he admitted that it was 'increasingly unlikely' further survivors would be found.

Rescue operation: The South Korean and New Zeland authorities tried to save all 42 crew members of the 614-ton vessel

Two New Zealand fishing boats were released from the effort but three Korean vessels searched on, he added.

Rescuers considered calling in aircraft from either New Zealand or from the U.S. Antarctic research station on McMurdo Sound, but Mr Henderson said the plan was abandoned because neither plane could reach the remote area in time to find survivors.

It was not immediately clear what caused the ship to sink, and reports said the boat had not made a distress call.

Many fishing vessels ply the remote seas to haul in deepwater fish such as the Patagonian toothfish, also known as Chilean sea bass, to sell to restaurants around the world.

With world consumption of seafood increasing, commercial fleets have begun to operate farther offshore to meet demand.

The Korean boat had 42 people on board when it sunk: eight South Koreans, eight Chinese, 11 Indonesians, 11 Vietnamese, three Filipinos and one Russian, South Korea's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The confirmed dead included two Indonesians, two South Koreans and one Vietnamese, a ministry official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Chinese Embassy in South Korea said four Chinese sailors were missing while four others were rescued, China's official Xinhua News Agency reported.

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