A Spanish fishing boat carrying 24 people sank hundreds of miles off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, early Tuesday, leaving at least 10 people dead and more than a dozen missing, according to Canadian and Spanish maritime authorities.
Three people were rescued by another fishing boat which was nearby when the 164ft vessel, called Villa de Pitanxo, sank, the Spanish Maritime Rescue Service said in a statement.
The survivors had made it into a life raft, which also contained the bodies of four crew members. The bodies of three other crew members were later found in the water, said Lt. Cmdr. Brian Owens, spokesperson for Joint Task Force Atlantic and the Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Three more bodies were found later in the day, according to Spanish maritime officials.
The boat was based in the Galician town of Marín in northwestern Spain. María Ramallo, the mayor, told reporters the sinking was “a tragedy of a magnitude we don’t remember”.
Search and rescue teams encountered choppy waters, reduced visibility and windy conditions at sea, Spanish officials said.
The boat was carrying 16 Spaniards, five Peruvians and three Ghanaians, according to the rescuers. The boat sank about 280 miles off Newfoundland, Spanish officials say said on Twitter.
Two Spanish and Portuguese helicopters, a plane and fishing boats were involved in the search, officials said.
The Halifax Rescue Center says he got an emergency signal just after midnight on Tuesdays from Villa de Pitanxo. The signal indicated that the boat was east of St. John’s, the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador. A helicopter, another plane and several ships were deployed.
Captain Owens said rescuers remained hopeful they could still find any crew members alive. They may have managed to put on survival suits before the ship sank or found debris or a lifeboat to cling to, he said.
“We never exclude the human spirit,” he said. “People are finding ways to survive.”
The fishing boat itself has not been found, he said.
“The North Atlantic is great, especially in the winter,” said Fred Anstey, director of the School of Maritime Studies at the Marine Institute at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Many other vessels, including fishing boats, have been lost over the years, he said.
One of the biggest disasters at sea happened in 1982, when the Ocean Ranger, a drilling rig on the Grand Banks off Newfoundland, capsized after being battered by 65ft waves. Eighty-four people were killed, Mr Anstey said.
The high winds and rough seas described by lifeguards on Tuesday are “very common weather for this time of year”, Mr Anstey said.
Sea temperatures are generally around freezing, Mr Anstey said. Taking wind conditions into account, he said, survival time “is often measured in minutes.”
In Spain, officials and relatives of crew members were eager for more updates on rescue efforts.
“We remain devastated by the terrible news from Canada regarding the sinking of the Villa de Pitanxo,” said Alberto Núñez Feijóo, regional president of Galicia. said on Twitter. “We are providing the government and the shipowner with all the help they need.”
Maica Larriba, a local official from Galicia, said on Tuesday that contact with the ship was lost around 5 a.m. in Spain.
In a separate press conference, Isabel Rodríguez García, minister for territorial policy and spokesperson for the Spanish government, confirmed the rescue of three crew members, but said she could not comment further.
“We are following the rescue operations with concern and concern,” she said.
The boat was built in 2004, according to ship findera marine traffic monitoring website.
The owner of the vessel is a fishing company, Grupo Nores, which specializes in fishing for cod, fruit bat and other species found in the North Atlantic, according to Spanish media.
Elisabeth Calderón, the aunt of one of the sailors, Jonathan Calderón, Recount local journalists that his ship had been at sea for more than a month. Mr Calderón has a wife and two teenage children, his aunt said.
His wife was traveling when the sinking happened, she said.
“Imagine when the family found out,” Ms. Calderón said.
Carlos Ordóñez, a sailor whose nephew was on the ship, said the family was “completely overwhelmed”.
“We don’t know if they are alive or dead,” he said.
Jesus Jiménez contributed report.