North Sea ships collision: Missing sailors almost certainly dead

Last Updated: Thu, Dec 06, 2012 07:40 hrs

Seven sailors went missing in the North Sea after a cargo ship collided with another vessel and sank off the Dutch coast are almost certainly dead, rescuers have said.

A massive air and sea rescue operation involving several helicopters, two navy patrol ships and even one of the ships after collision, which killed four cargo ship crew members, was called off at about 2 am.

Coastguard chiefs said they would decide at daylight whether to continue the search, the Daily Mail reports.

Coastguard spokesman Peter Verburg said that 'the chance of finding anyone alive now is virtually zero'.

"We are doing all we can, but time is overtaking us," he said.

According to the report, four bodies were recovered and 13 people have been rescued so far.

The 485ft Baltic Ace collided with the 440ft container ship Corvus J, heading from Scotland to Belgium, in darkness near busy shipping lanes 40 miles off the coast of the southern Netherlands, the report said.

The Baltic Ace, carrying a cargo of cars, had a crew of 24 which was forced to abandon ship as it sank quickly.

By around 10pm (9pm GMT), 11 crew members had been rescued by helicopters and two more by ships, the coastguard said. Rescuers were using infrared cameras to hunt for more survivors.

"We still hope to find them," Kees Brinkman, a spokesman for the rescuers, told Dutch television nearly four hours after the collision.

"Their chances of survival are shrinking' if they are in the water," he added.

The Dutch Defence Ministry said two navy patrol ships were aiding the search.

"Helicopters are trying, in (strong wind) and high waves to bring the people to safety," it said.

According to the report, four of the survivors were being flown to a hospital in Rotterdam and seven to an air base in Belgium.

The Baltic Ace, sailing under a Bahamas flag, was heading from the Belgian port of Zeebrugge to Kotka in Finland, and the Cyprus-registered Corvus J was on its way from Grangemouth, Scotland to Antwerp, the report added. (ANI)

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