Salvaging of French WWII Boat Halted Over Cost

Attempts to salvage a sunken French gunboat from the Mekong River in Kratie province have run aground, local authorities said Monday.

Local authorities still hope to raise the 700-ton World War II-era Francis Garnier to the surface to make it a tourist attraction.

However, citing rising costs, Leang Rithy, the company conducting the salvage operation, ceased work at the site on Jan 28, said Nuth Narin, chief of Krakor commune in Kratie district.

“We are looking for a partner to invest to raise it to the surface to make a restaurant or a nightclub on the Mekong River,” deputy provincial governor Thuon Kry said.

“It will cost too much to lift it up from the bottom. It costs $100,000 and our province doesn’t have the money to salvage it,” he said.

Leang Rithy began pumping silt out of the ship’s hull on Dec 15, Nuth Narin said, and the wreck now lies under only a meter of water.

“Right now we’re waiting for information from the governor of Kratie to solve this problem and we appeal to the donors of both countries [France and Japan] to support the budget to raise the ship,” he said.

French Embassy spokesman Laurent Lemarchand said he was unaware of the request.

“To my knowledge, the matter has not yet been referred to us,” he said.

Japanese Embassy officials could not be reached for comment Monday.

Nuth Narin said that 10 Japanese visitors came to see the wreck on Sunday and that he regretted that work to retrieve the vessel had stopped. The ship had to be closely watched to protect it from scavengers, he added.

One local resident, Lim Heng, recalled that the Japanese sank the ship in March 1945 after a surprise attack on Kratie town.

However several naval history Web sites say that the gunboat was scuttled.

            (Additional reporting by Douglas Gillison)


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