At least 20 crew members were rescued Thursday night after a cattle transport ship with more than 80 people capsized in waters off the coast of Tripoli when storms battered the eastern Mediterranean according to Lebanese security and United Nations sources.
“The rescue mission is ongoing amid very bad weather conditions” reported UN's Andrea Tennenti. “We only know that it is a merchant ship with some 83 people on board who are believed to be seamen”.
The Panama-flagged ship Danny FII, which was transporting livestock from Montevideo, Uruguay to Syria, overturned some 10 nautical miles off Tripoli, Lebanese police said.
Nine Lebanese Army vessels, including a medical team, were dispatched to the scene and the maritime unit of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) joined with three vessels after a distress signal was received by Lebanese naval forces.
A port official in Tripoli said that 90 minutes after the accident at least 20 sailors had been rescued, 16 of them by a Syrian ship that was in the area.
MTF vessels took several hours to reach the scene, battling choppy seas as the storms enveloping Lebanon showed no signs of abating. Tenenti said the rescue process was hampered by the adverse weather, with helicopters normally used in maritime retrieval operations proving inoperable due to gale-force winds.
According to Uruguayan naval authorities the live-cattle transport vessel Danny FII left Montevideo November 23 for the Middle East carrying 10.224 sheep and 17.932 cattle. Apparently the vessel under command of a British captain regularly transports Uruguayan to the Middle East.
She had a crew of 83 over half of them staff to look after the livestock and mostly from Pakistan and Philippines. Other nationalities included a Brazilian, an Australian and four Uruguayans.
The Montevideo registry indicates the vessel belongs to Rachid Fare Enterprises and the maritime agent was Schandy.
A Trípoli port official said the vessel is the second ship to sink in Lebanese coastal waters in the space of a week, after the Sala II, a Togolese-flagged freighter which got into trouble around 70 kilometres off the coast of Tyre late last Friday.