Rescuers searching for cargo ship see 'no signs' of vessel

Contact with the El Faro (above) was lost early on Thursday, as Hurricane Joaquin approached the Bahamas.
Contact with the El Faro (above) was lost early on Thursday, as Hurricane Joaquin approached the Bahamas.REUTERS

MIAMI (AFP) - Rescue workers searching for a missing cargo ship with 33 aboard off the Bahamas said there were still "no signs" of the vessel Saturday (Oct 3), as Hurricane Joaquin moved away from the island chain.

Contact with the El Faro was lost early Thursday as the dangerous weather system approached, and efforts to locate the vessel by air and sea have so far been unsuccessful.

Rescue workers, however, sounded an optimistic note Saturday as the storm began leaving the area and the Bahamas discontinued all hurricane watches and warnings for its islands.

"As the storm moves to the north we can get further into where we believe the ship's last position was," Coast Guard chief petty officer Ryan Doss told AFP.

En route from Florida to Puerto Rico, the 224m cargo ship was reported to be caught in the storm near Crooked Island, which is part of the Bahamas.

It was from there that it sent a satellite notification stating the ship had lost propulsion and had a 15-degree list.

A total of 28 Americans and five Poles were on board, the Coast Guard said.

There were "still no signs of the vessel or any communication with them, but we are hoping for better weather conditions to be able to do more extensive searching," Doss said.

C-130 Coast Guard aircraft plus an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter were searching for the missing Saturday, and two Coast Guard cutters were en route to the area.

Search crews have already covered approximately 2,900 sq km.

Despite improved conditions, there was "still very strong wind, still lots of rain," Doss said, adding that the weather was "still pretty extreme."

At 1200 GMT (8pm Singapore time), Joaquin, a Category 3 storm on the five-point Saffir-Simpson scale, was packing maximum sustained winds of about 205kmh, the US National Hurricane Centre said.

It was spinning some 265km north-east of San Salvador island, and expected to pass west of Bermuda on Sunday.