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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Officials: 8 crew missing after freighter sinks off Turkey's Black Sea coast

By: Suzan Fraser, The Associated Press

ANKARA, Turkey - Turkish Coast Guard boats, tug boats and a helicopter were searching for eight crew members after a Cambodia-flagged freighter ship sank in stormy waters off Turkey's Black Sea coast on Tuesday, officials said. Three other crew members were rescued.

The ship, Vera, was sailing to Turkey's Aliaga port from Russia when it sank off the coast during a storm, regional Gov. Erol Ayyildiz said. He said police were also searching the shore for the missing crew.

Ayyildiz said the ship's second and third captains and its cook, a woman, were rescued and hospitalized.

"There is hope that the eight (missing) will be rescued," the state-run Anadolu Agency quoted Ayyildiz as saying. "They are used to the sea, they are experienced. Therefore, until we reach them, we are assuming that they are alive."

The Maritime Affairs Directorate said there were 10 Ukrainians and one Georgian crew member aboard the ship, which was carrying scrap metal.

It said at least three tug boats had joined the Coast Guard search-and-rescue effort, while Ayyildiz said a helicopter had also been dispatched.

"By the time the Coast Guard arrived in response to the distress call, the ship had already sunk," Irfan Erdem, head of the Chamber of Commerce for the region, told Turkey's NTV television.

He said a storm likely caused the ship's cargo to shift, tilting the vessel to the side and causing it to take on water.

Much of Turkey has been affected by a cold snap that has hit parts of Europe, with stormy weather disrupting maritime traffic.

The accident occurred some 10 days after another cargo ship brushed against two anchored vessels during severe weather off the coast of Istanbul, taking on water for hours before authorities pulled it ashore using a tug boat.

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