Page last updated at 15:12 GMT, Friday, 18 December 2009

Dozens still missing off Lebanon


Rescue teams tended to survivors after the ship sank

Rescuers are still looking for 35 people missing after a ship carrying a cargo of livestock sank off the north Lebanese coast in a storm.

Navy ships responding to a distress signal pulled 38 people from the sea, the Lebanese military said.

The first survivors have now arrived on land, and at least nine bodies have been recovered, a spokesman said.

High seas, strong winds and the floating carcasses of thousands of animals are hampering rescue efforts.

The Panamanian-flagged Danny F II capsized 11 nautical miles (17km) off Tripoli after sending a distress signal.

The vessel was sailing from Uruguay to the Syrian port of Tartous.

One of the survivors, a Filipino named Jonathan, told the AFP news agency he was unable to find a life jacket when he jumped into the water.

Danny F II in Buenos Aires 2006 - Image: Peter Mosselberger
The Danny F II had sailed from Uruguay (Image: Peter Mosselberger)

"The waves were very high and I panicked. The water was freezing and I felt pain in my chest.

"I thought I was going to die," he said.

One of those saved was from the Philippines and another from Pakistan, a Lebanese rescue official said.

He told AFP that the survivors were "very scared and cold" when they were pulled out of the water.

"If the sea remains calm we hope to find more survivors, but if the storm kicks up again then they have little chance of surviving for more than an hour in the water," he said.

All the livestock were presumed lost, he added.

A Lebanese military spokesman said the crew had had time to don life jackets before the boat capsized.

International search

The ship's operator, Agencia Schandy, told AFP in Montevideo that those on board the Danny F II included six passengers - four Uruguayans, one Brazilian and an Australian.

The ship had left Montevideo on 23 November with 10,224 sheep and 17,932 cattle, the company said.

The ship's crew are mostly from the Philippines and Pakistan but there were at least one Lebanese and one Syrian on board, a port official in Tripoli said.

The captain of the vessel is reportedly British.

Map showing Lebanon

Ships from the Lebanese navy and the UN peacekeeping force for Lebanon (Unifil) are conducting the search, along with a Lebanese civilian vessel.

"Three maritime task force ships - one Italian and two German - were dispatched about 10 nautical miles off the coast of Tripoli after the Lebanese navy received a distress call from a Panamanian-flagged ship," Unifil spokesman Andrea Tenenti told AFP news agency.

A British military base at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus was also taking part in the rescue.

"We have scrambled one helicopter from 84 Squadron but because of the distance from (Akrotiri) base it will be operating out of Larnaca," British Forces spokesman Stuart Bardsley said.

"The helicopter is not equipped to winch at night but we provide a searchlight facility to lead the boats where there are life rafts."

The cargo ship issued a distress call on Thursday afternoon, but had sunk before a Lebanese navy ship reached the area, a Lebanese army officer said.

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Country profile: Lebanon
13 Jul 11 |  Country profiles

Melbourne Age Aussie missing after freighter sinks off Lebanon - 7 hrs ago
Yahoo! News Lebanon ship rescuers find 14 survivors, nine bodies (AFP) - 19 hrs ago
France24 Dozens missing after freighter sinks off Lebanon - 31 hrs ago
Philippine Daily Inquirer Filipino among survivors in Lebanon sea mishap - 33 hrs ago
National Post Ship carrying 83 capsizes off Lebanon coast - 38 hrs ago

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