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Search continues for ship caught in Hurricane Joaquin

Published:Saturday | October 3, 2015 | 12:00 AM


The United States Coast Guard aircraft yesterday searched in the waters of the south eastern Bahamas for a cargo ship with 33 people on board that lost power and began taking on water as powerful Hurricane Joaquin roared across the sprawling archipelago.

The crew of the El Faro, 28 from the US and five from Poland, reported that the ship was listing at 15 degrees before they lost contact with authorities as the ship passed near the lightly populated Crooked Island at the height of the storm.

Coast Guard officials dispatched planes and helicopters to the area, with the storm moving to the northeast away from the Bahamas.

The 790-foot (241-meter) El Faro was heading from Jacksonville, Florida, to San Juan, Puerto Rico, when it was battered by 20- to 30-foot waves (up to nine-metres) as Joaquin was a Category 4 storm. It later weakened to a Category 3 before regaining strength again yesterday.

TOTE Services, the owner of the Jacksonville-based ship, said in a brief statement that it was working with the Coast Guard and trying to establish communication with the vessel.

Coast Guard officials said the search had covered about 850 square nautical miles before it had to be called off late Friday because of darkness. They resumed the effort early Saturday, concentrating around Crooked Island and Long Island, but up to press time, the ship had not been found.

The search area is vast and the effort is hampered by the fact that there are few vessels out there because of the rough weather, said Chris Lloyd, the operations manager of the Bahamas Air Sea and Rescue Association, which was not helping look for the ship because the area was beyond its reach.