A Spanish-flagged trawler has sunk Tuesday off the Newfoundland coast in eastern Canada, killing at least seven people while rescue efforts were underway to find the rest of the crew. Three survivors have been found, and a lifeboat is still missing. Hence hopes are high others could have made it through.
The Galicia-based 50-meter long Villa de Pitanxo sank at around 0600 GMT, according to Spanish authorities, who also said the 24-member crew included 16 Spaniards, five Peruvians, and three Ghanaians.
Spain's ambassador to Canada was overseeing the latest developments and said the situation was very bad,” according to Xunta de Galicia Speaker Alberto Núñez Feijóo. The Xunta is the collegiate body of government of the Spanish autonomous community of Galicia.
Three out of four life rafts have been located so far. Two of them were empty and the other carried three survivors. Canadian maritime forces were looking for the fourth raft despite difficult weather conditions.
We have now recovered seven deceased individuals and three survivors,” Brian Owens of Canada's Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) told AFP.
The Villa de Pitanxo sent out two distress calls which were received at 5:24 am (0424 GMT) in Madrid, the ministry said. Five hours later, another Spanish fishing vessel operating in the area spotted two life rafts, one of which was carrying three survivors and several bodies, it said.
The three survivors were in a state of hypothermic shock, it was also reported. They were flown to safety by a Canadian coastguard helicopter, as rescue teams trusted more survivors were to be found.
The fact that we have already found three survivors in a life raft gives us that hope that others were able to either get into their survival suits, get into life rafts and get off the vessel, Owens explained. He added a helicopter, a military plane, a coastguard ship, and several boats had been deployed.
The weather right now is challenging for the search. It's approximately four-meter (13 foot) waves and visibility is down to approximately one-quarter nautical mile, he pointed out.
It was not immediately clear what caused the boat to sink. The Villa de Pitanxo is a freezer trawler registered in 2004. It is based in Marin, a small port near Pontevedra, and belongs to shipowner Manuel Nores. We certainly could be talking about one of the saddest days for Galician fishing in its entire history, Javier Touza, head of the Vigo Shipowner's Cooperative said in a radio interview.
Founded in 1950, the firm has eight freezer trawlers and some 300 employees with vessels operating off the Canadian coast, in the South Atlantic, and off the western coast of Africa, according to its website.
We are following with concern the search and rescue operation for the crew of the Galician ship that sunk in the waters of Newfoundland,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez tweeted.