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Sunday, July 14, 2024

39 Filipinos in sunken cattle ship off Japan

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Japanese coast guard rescuers searched Thursday for the remaining 42 crew, including 39 Filipinos, of a ship believed to have sunk in a typhoon, after a lone survivor was found bobbing in a lifejacket.

LONE SURVIVOR? This handout picture taken on September 2, 2020 and provided by 10th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters on September 3, 2020 shows coast guards rescuing a Filipino man off Amami Oshima island. Japan’s coast guard said one person was found during a search for a cargo ship with 43 people on board after receiving a distress call from the East China Sea during a typhoon. AFP

The 11,947-ton Gulf Livestock 1, carrying a cargo of 5,800 cows, issued a distress call in the early hours of Wednesday from a position 185 kilometers west of Japan’s Amami Oshima island in the East China Sea.

Japan’s coast guard dispatched planes and rescue boats to hunt for the ship and late Wednesday found a sole survivor — the ship’s 45-year-old Filipino chief officer who is unidentified and currently in hospital.

Dramatic images released by the coast guard showed the man floating in the darkness in an orange life jacket and being pulled onto a rescue boat with a rope.

The man told rescuers that he had put on a life jacket and dived into the sea after a warning announcement on board on Wednesday, when powerful Typhoon Maysak was passing through the area.

The typhoon has since passed the area and the weather during the search was reported to be fine.

He said one of the boat’s engines had stalled and a wave then overturned the ship, which later sank, the coast guard said in a statement.

There were no details on when and where the ship sank, but the man said he had not seen other crew members while waiting to be rescued.

A rubber boat was spotted late Wednesday in the area being searched for survivors, but the coast guard said they had not confirmed if it was linked to the ship.

Three coast guard vessels, five planes and specially trained divers are involved in the search-and-rescue operation.

Japan is currently in its annual typhoon season, and a second massive storm is on course to arrive in the same area around Sunday, according to local forecasters, potentially limiting the time the coast guard can continue to search.

The ship was carrying a crew of 39 Filipinos, two New Zealanders and two Australians, and was charged by Australia-based Australasian Global Exports to carry the livestock.

It was reportedly travelling from Napier in New Zealand to the Chinese port of Tangshan.

Australasian Global Exports said it was in contact with the families of some of the crew, as well as with local authorities, but offered no further details.

“Our thoughts and prayers are also with the ship’s officers, crew and other personnel and their families,” it added.

New Zealand’s Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) said it was temporarily suspending live cattle exports after the accident.

“MPI wants to understand what happened on the sailing of the Gulf Livestock 1,” it said.

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