JACKSONVILLEe, Florida (Reuters/AFP) - The United States Coast Guard said on Monday (Oct 5) it has discovered a body in its search for survivors of the lost El Faro cargo ship, which is believed to have sunk in the Atlantic with 33 people aboard.
Several survivial suits were found and searchers "did identify human remains in one", Coast Guard Captain Mark Fedor said.
"We are assuming that the vessel has sunk," he told reporters.
The Coast Guard believes that the El Faro sank after sailing into the path of Hurricane Joaquin in the Bahamas, a spokesman said on Monday (Oct 5).
Rescuers continue to search for survivors, said Chief Petty Officer Bobby Nash in Miami. "It's still an active search and rescue," he said.
Search and rescue teams resumed scouring the seas on Monday for the El Faro and its mostly American crew, after it was caught in the eye of Hurricane Joaquin four days ago, the Coast Guard said.
More than 70,000 square nautical miles have been searched so far, the Coast Guard said.
On Sunday, aircrews found a debris field in the vicinity of the ship's last-known position, including styrofoam, wood, cargo and other items.
There was no confirmation that the debris belonged to the El Faro, though one life ring found earlier was from the missing ship, the Coast Guard and Tote Maritime confirmed.
A 224m container ship with 28 US citizens and five Polish nationals aboard, the El Faro left Jacksonville on Tuesday headed to San Juan, Puerto Rico.
On Thursday, it reported losing propulsion, listing and taking on water after sailing into the path of Joaquin off Crooked Island in the Bahamas, the company said.
The Coast Guard said the ship has not been heard from since a distress call sent on Thursday morning.
Waiting for word on the fate of the crew, relatives gathered at a seafarers' union hall in Jacksonville, Florida on Sunday for an emotional meeting with the Coast Guard and the ship's owner, Tote Maritime Puerto Rico.
Mr Barry Young, the uncle of a crew member, said the families still held out hope but conceded: "This is one that will require a miracle."
Mr Philip Greene, president and chief executive of Tote Services, part of the New Jersey-based Tote shipping company and which also includes Tote Maritime, said the captain of the El Faro had been watching the storm closely and had calculated he had enough room to steer to its west.
When the ship's engine broke down, "that left him in the path (of Joaquin)", Mr Greene said.
Relatives of the crew have spoken highly of the ship's experienced captain, though some questioned the decision to sail into such a powerful storm.
Joaquin battered the central Bahamas archipelago for more than two days with 210 kmh winds, a potentially catastrophic Category 4 hurricane on a scale of 1 to 5.
"The ship should never have left," Ms Rochelle Hamm, wife of crew member Frank Hamm, a father of five, told NBC News.