Bodrum, Turkey | 17 fishermen were rescued by the Turkish Coast Guard and 5 others are missing after a Russian submarine got caught in their ship’s fishing net, causing the vessel to sink in the Aegean Sea.
The local fishing boat named Deniz Hazine, left the dock early this morning with 22 men on board, setting out to fish along the Turkish Coast. Unfortunately for the crew, less than 15 minutes after they made an extremely dangerous and unusual catch: Russia’s diesel-electric submarine Rostov-on-Don.
After the sub snagged in its fishing nets near Bodrum, on the west shore of Turkey, the ship was dragged on over almost 5 kilometres before finally being pulled underwater.
The majority of the crew just overboard before the ship capsized and was rapidly rescued by other fishing boats, but 5 of the men were still on board went the ship went down, and have yet to be found.
The captain of the Turkish ship, Faruk Öztürk, said that he felt like he was on board of a toy boat and was being pushed by an invisible hand.
“I rapidly noticed that something was seriously wrong, but it was already too late,” Mr. Öztürk told reporters. “I’ve had some whale getting caught in the nets before, but this had nothing to do with it. It literally made our ship rotate and it began pulling us. It was extremely scary! Most of the men panicked and jumped overboard, so it was impossible to release the nets in time to save the ship. After about two minutes, I realized that there was nothing that I could do and I jumped in the water, only moments before the ship capsized.”
A team of specialized divers, as well as helicopters and aircraft of the Turkish Navy, are involved in the search for the five fishermen who remain missing, searching an area that has already been extended to more than 100 square kilometres.
The Russian submarine suffered no visible damage during the incident, but it will be escorted by the Turkish Navy, all the way back to the Black Sea, before it heads back to Russia for an inspection.
The Russian Defense Minister, Sergey Kuzhugetovich Shoygu, presented his condolences to the victims and their families, but at the same time, blamed the Turkish government’s lack of cooperation for the incident.
“The Russian Navy has confirmed that one of its submarines accidentally got caught in the ship’s nets.” said Mr. Shoygu. “This incident is definitely unfortunate and regrettable, and we would like to express our sympathy to the victims and their families. It’s sad, because this incident could have easily been avoided if the Turkish government had been a little more cooperative in coordinating navigation in its national waters.”
The incident risks reigniting tensions between the two nations, as both countries have continued to trade sharp rhetoric in recent months, after the downing of a Russian military jet by Turkish F16s.
In December, another incident involving a Russian military ship and a Turkish fishing vessel had occurred near the Greek island of Limnos, in the Aegean Sea. The warship Smetlivy fired warning shots at a Turkish vessel, an action that had been meant to avoid a collision, according to the Russian ministry of Defence.
Meeting the press this afternoon in Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau, asked both parties to “work towards de-escalating this tense situation through dialogue”.
She also announced that an emergency meeting would take place in Paris next week between the various members of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State, to improve cooperation and communication in order to avoid similar accidents in the future.