OT Rescuers Trying to Reach Sinking Cargo Ship in the Atlantic

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HAMILTON, Bermuda (March 23, 2000 7:24 p.m. EST http://www.nandotimes.com)

The crew of a Greek cargo vessel abandoned ship Thursday afternoon after the ship started sinking in the Atlantic Ocean more than 400 miles northeast of Bermuda.

The 776-foot Leader L sent out a distress call at 1:32 p.m. EST that it was taking on water through a 45-foot gash in the right side of the hull, said Allison von Hagn, a U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman in Norfolk, Va.

The ship's 31-member crew began boarding two life boats in seas with 16-foot waves, von Hagn said.

"They haven't been able to let us know how much water they're taking on so we're not sure how quickly they're sinking," von Hagn said. It was not clear what caused the gash.

A Liberian-flagged cargo ship, Knock Stocks, was the closest ship, about 120 miles away, and has diverted from its route to help the ship, the Coast Guard said in a statement.

Four Canadian navy ships with rescue helicopters on board were steaming toward the scene but were still more than 250 miles away. Officials did not know when they would arrive.

A U.S. Coast Guard C-130 plane from North Carolina was to arrive in the evening, but it could only monitor the ship, not rescue people, von Hagn said.

The Panamanian-flagged ship, owned by Leoninus Shipping, was carrying salt from Spain to New York. It had changed course toward Bermuda and was moving at about 7 mph before the crew began abandoning ship, von Hagn said.

-- viewer (justp@ssing.by), March 23, 2000


http://ne ws.excite.com/news/r/000323/23/news-crash-ship

Canada Navy Helicopter Rescues 3 From Sunken Ship

Updated 11:13 PM ET March 23, 2000

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (Reuters) - A Canadian Navy helicopter rescued three survivors of a cargo ship that sank Thursday with 31 crew members aboard in the Atlantic Ocean about 575 miles (500 nautical miles) (920 km) southeast of Nova Scotia, authorities said.

A second helicopter was due to arrive on the scene within minutes, Navy Lt. Pat Jessup told Reuters. She said the helicopter radioed the Navy destroyer Iroquois with news of the rescue, but no details were known about how many other survivors there were.

A Canadian Coast Guard aircraft at the scene earlier reported that the 760-foot (230-meter) cargo ship Leader L had sunk, and that the plane's crew had spotted two life rafts, although it was not known how many people were in them, Jessup said.

"We know there are survivors because there was radio contact," she said. She said the contact was broken when the survivors' radio batteries gave out.

Two aircraft at the scene -- one Canadian, one U.S. -- had spotted lights and one hard and one soft-shell life raft but were not near enough to determine the number of survivors.

The Canadian aircraft had to depart but the two Canadian search-and-rescue helicopters headed to the site after taking off from a Canadian Navy frigate that was in the area of the Atlantic when the cargo ship began sinking, Jessup said.

She said the helicopters would hover for 45 minutes and perform rescue operations before flying back to the frigate.

The Panamanian-registered bulk cargo ship, on its way to New York from Spain with a load of salt, sank hours after it issued a distress call when a 50-foot (15-meter) steel plate broke off the hull, and the vessel began taking on water, said officials at the Rescue Coordination Center in Halifax.

Three Canadian frigates, one destroyer and a supply ship with hospital equipment heading to a training mission in Puerto Rico diverted course and headed to the sunken ship, but were not expected to reach the scene until early Friday, Jessup said.

The first ship was expected to reach the site at 2 a.m. (0700 GMT) Friday.

The area of the Atlantic where the ship sank -- 460 miles (740 km) or 400 nautical miles northeast of Bermuda -- is normally covered by U.S. rescue crews, but Canadian forces are in charge of the rescue effort because their ships happened to be closest to the scene.

"Just by coincidence they happened to be in the area and are well equipped to do the rescue," Navy Lt. Cmdr. Glenn Chamberlain told CTV television.

The water temperature in the area where the ship sank was warm enough to allow a person to survive up to 26 hours, Jessup she said.

Seas in the area were running at about 17 feet (5 meters), but it was not immediately clear what caused the steel plate to break from the hull.

-- viewer (justp@ssing.by), March 23, 2000.

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