Disasters & Accidents

Spanish fishing boat survivors now en route to Canadian port city

By Julio Cesar Rivas

St. John’s, Canada, Feb 17 (EFE).- Three survivors from a Spanish fishing trawler that sank hundreds of miles off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, were en route to this port city on Thursday amid stormy conditions.

The Spanish vessel – Playa de Menduiña II – that is transporting those survivors and seven of the recovered bodies is expected to arrive in St. John’s, capital of Newfoundland and Labrador province, on Saturday, the port authority told Efe.

The remains of two other recovered bodies are being transported by the Canadian vessel Nexus, which is expected to reach that same port city on Friday.

Both boats are being escorted by the Canadian coast guard vessel Cygnus.

A powerful winter storm is producing wind gusts of up to 86 kilometers (53 miles) per hour, while the wind-chill factor has plunged to -17 C (1.4 F) and waves in that part of the North Atlantic Ocean are nearly eight meters (26 feet) high.

The Meteorological Service of Canada has forecast wind gusts of between 110 km per hour and 120 km/h through late Friday along the route the vessels must take to reach St. John’s.

The 50-meter Villa de Pitanxo, which was based in Marin, a port in the northwestern Spanish region of Galicia, went down early Tuesday on the Grand Banks, a rich fishing grounds located some 250 nautical miles (460 km) east of the Newfoundland coast.

Three members of the 24-person crew, which was made up of 16 Spaniards, five Peruvians and three Ghanaians, were rescued by another nearby fishing boat.

Canadian authorities announced on Wednesday – 36 hours after the boat had sunk – that the search for the 12 missing crew members had been called off, a decision that caused consternation on both sides of the Atlantic.

Mark Ouellette, a Canadian coast guard officer attached to the Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Halifax, Nova Scotia, told Efe Wednesday that while deciding to end a search is the “toughest” aspect of the job, authorities have to weigh the risks to rescuers against the odds of survival for the missing people.

“Right now, the temperature of the water in the search area is 3 C. The sailors who couldn’t use emergency suits could only survive a few hours. And if they were able to remain dry and use those suits, the survival model shows a 5 percent chance of surviving after 23 hours,” he said then.

On Thursday, other spokespersons for the operation told Efe the worsening of the weather conditions confirms that the JRCC made the correct decision.

They noted that the strong winds in the area put the rescue teams and boats at risk.

Spain’s government, however, said Thursday it is in close contact with Canadian authorities to take advantage of any window of opportunity to resume the search. EFE


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