Saturday, December 19, 2009
A 40th survivor has been found from a ship which sank in rough seas off northern Lebanon, even as officials said hope was fading of any more rescues. The latest survivor, a Filipino, was recovered on Saturday near Syria's Mediterranean coast further north, bringing to 40 the number of people rescued, with 11 dead bodies also found, as search efforts continued. "Syrian authorities found a survivor off the coast of Tartus aboard a raft, a Philippines national named Wilson Vincent," port authority chief Ahmad Tamer told reporters in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. "We have checked and his name was on the list. His condition is stable." But Tamer added that hope of finding any others was fading. Rescuer teams have been battling rough conditions in the hunt for survivors from the Danny F II, a freighter carrying 82 people, including an unnamed Australian, which went down in a storm on Thursday, with its British captain among those believed to have drowned. The search "is ongoing, but we've covered our waters, and sadly there don't seem to be any signs of more survivors or bodies", a Lebanese military spokesman told reporters on Saturday. Lebanese vessels with a medical crew and three boats of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) have taken part in the extended search. Syrian boats were also involved, as was a British helicopter from Cyprus. But officials were hesitant to say the 31 people still missing were presumed dead after two days of heavy winds and torrential rain. "It's hard to say what we can expect, as nearly 48 hours have passed," said UNIFIL deputy spokesman Andrea Tenenti. "We will continue for the day and hope that we will be able to find more survivors."The Lebanese Red Cross said the survivors in hospital were mainly suffering from "exhaustion, broken bones and concussion". Most of them were Filipinos, Pakistanis and Uruguayan, the military spokesman said earlier, adding that a Russian, a Ukrainian and a Lebanese were among those saved. The Danny F II capsized during a storm about 11 nautical miles off Tripoli after sending a distress signal. It had left Montevideo on November 29 with a consignment of about 10,000 sheep and almost 18,000 cattle bound for Tartus, north of Tripoli, but was forced to change course because of the bad weather. It was trying to reach Beirut when disaster struck, with the ship capsizing. The ship's operator, Agencia Schandy, told reporters in Montevideo that it had a crew of 76 and six passengers - four Uruguayans, one Brazilian and an Australian. Survivors, soaking and wrapped in blankets, were ferried into Tripoli aboard UN boats on Thursday and Friday, a news correspondent said. Others were helicoptered to dry land, suffering from extreme exhaustion. The storm had caused the vessel to "nosedive like the Titanic", 35-year-old survivor Nicholas Achard told Uruguayan radio El Espectador from his hospital bed in Tripoli. "The ship listed 16 degrees. We passed around life jackets and within half an hour it had sunk," the Uruguayan said. Another Filipino told rescuers that the British captain of the Danny F II, bound from Uruguay for the Syrian port of Tartus, went down with his ship. "He told us that the ship's engine went down and the captain sounded the alarm and told everyone to jump in the water," a rescue official quoted the survivor as saying. "He said that 10 minutes after they jumped, the ship overturned sideways in very high waves and sank with the captain still on board."