Hurricane Joaquin update: Coast Guard resumes search for missing cargo ship

The hunt continues for the crew of a Florida-based cargo ship caught in Hurricane Joaquin.

Tote Maritime Services/Reuters
The El Faro is shown in this undated handout photo provided by Tote Maritime in Jacksonville, Florida, October 2, 2015. The US Coast Guard said Friday it was searching for the 735-foot cargo ship with 33 crew members aboard reported to be caught in the powerful hurricane Joaquin. The container ship El Faro was en route to San Juan, Puerto Rico from Jacksonville, Florida when the Coast Guard received a satellite notification that the ship had lost propulsion and was listing heavily.

The hunt continues for a cargo ship that went missing off the coast of the Bahamas during Hurricane Joaquin. The Coast Guard is making every attempt to rescue the crew, of whom 28 are Americans and 5 are Polish.

"The fact that there has been no communications [with the ship] is not good news," Chris Lloyd, the operations manager of the Bahamas Air Sea and Rescue Association (BASRA), told the Associated Press. The BASRA is not taking part in looking for the ship because the area of the Atlantic Ocean in question is beyond its reach.

Heavy rain and winds could have damaged or destroyed the ship’s communications equipment, say Coast Guard officials.

El Faro, owned by a Florida-based company, departed Jacksonville, Fla. late Tuesday night and was scheduled to arrive in San Juan, Puerto Rico, at about noon on Friday. 

The ship encountered hurricane Joaquin north of San Salvador. Its last communication was a distress call, issued about 7:30 Thursday morning, saying it had lost power and was taking on water. 

The search is complicated by the ship's last known location, say Coast Guard officials. El Faro was far from land, in an area with very few other vessels. They have already searched 850 square miles for the ship, working with El Faro’s parent company Tote Maritime Services to try and re-establish communications with the ship.

The ship still has a chance of recovery, says the Coast Guard.

On Thursday, the Coast Guard rescued 12 crew members from a sinking vessel that had been caught in the hurricane. That vessel, whose port of call was originally Bolivia, had all of its crew members accounted for. Other, smaller, ships that went missing in the stormy weather have also been found.

The Bahamas were battered by hurricane Joaquin, with school closings and severe property damage across the islands, but no reported casualties. While the hurricane is no longer expected to make landfall in the US, it has unleashed torrential rains and prompted flash flood warnings from South Carolina to Maryland. 

"Hopefully, today [the searchers] will have a bit better vision as the hurricane heads north," Petty Officer John-Paul Rios, a Coast Guard spokesman in Miami, told the Associated Press.

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