Canadian rescue services search for 11 sailors from sunk Spanish trawler

A rescue helicopter searches for survivors of a Spanish fishing trawler which sank off eastern Canada. PHOTO: AFP

ST JOHN'S, NEWFOUNDLAND (REUTERS) - Bad weather on Wednesday (Feb 16) complicated the search for 11 missing crew members from a Spanish fishing trawler that sank in rough winter seas off the eastern coast of Canada, leading to at least 10 deaths, according to a Canadian rescue official.

Three surviving sailors from the trawler, suffering from severe hypothermia, were plucked from a life raft early on Tuesday. It was not immediately clear what sank the trawler Villa de Pitanxo.

"Our aircraft are refuelling and are returning to conduct more daylight searches," said Joint Rescue Coordination Centre Halifax spokesman Brian Owens. "The weather has deteriorated since last evening ..."

Owens said seas were at 10m, with 45-knot (83kmh) winds and visibility of three to four nautical miles (5.6km to 7.4km),"which is complicating the search."

"But we are still committed to the search for the remaining 11 members of the crew," he added.

Continuing rescue operations on Wednesday involved a plane, two helicopters, rescue ships and one Spanish and two Portuguese trawlers, the Spanish marine rescue agency said.

The Villa de Pitanxo, with a crew of 24 comprising 16 Spaniards, five Peruvians and three Ghanaians, launched a distress beacon at 0424 GMT on Tuesday (12.24pm Singapore time), Spain's fisheries ministry said.

The vessel sank around 450km east-southeast of Newfoundland, the fisheries ministry said.

The sinking was the deadliest involving a Spanish boat in years and was a particular blow to the Villa de Pitanxo's home region of Galicia in northwestern Spain, whose sailors have travelled the world's seas for fish for centuries.

The Villa de Pitanxo (above) sank around 450km east-southeast of Newfoundland. PHOTO: VESSELFINDER.COM

At the Nores Marin group, the company based in the Galician city of Pontevedra which owns the ship, relatives of the crew gathered in search of news. Spanish authorities said bodies had not been formally identified.

"At the moment, we don't know anything, and I really can't talk about it," the wife of missing fisherman Edwin Cordoba Salinas told journalists.

"They haven't found him yet and for the moment we're waiting to see what happens," she added.

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