US rescue teams join search for missing S. Korea boat crew

SEOUL - US rescue teams have joined an increasingly desperate search for 52 people missing from a South Korean trawler that sank in freezing waters off Russia's far eastern coast, Seoul's foreign ministry said Wednesday.

A US coastguard plane was already on the scene in the Bering Sea and a US vessel specialised in search and rescue operations was due to arrive early Thursday, a ministry official told AFP.

They will join five ships that have been searching the area since the 1,753-tonne Oryong 501 trawler, with 60 people on board, went down in rough seas on Monday morning.

The discovery of four empty, damaged lifeboats has fuelled concerns that the missing crew members were pitched into the icy waters when the boat sank.

Those onboard included 11 South Koreans, 35 Indonesians,13 Philippine crew members and a Russian identified by Russian news agencies as a fisheries inspector.

The body of one Korean has been recovered, while the Russian inspector and six foreign crew members were rescued.

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