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File photo of a Greek coastguard boat. Alamy Stock Photo

One crew member found dead during major rescue operation after cargo ship sinks in Greece

The ship went down in gale-force winds off the Greek Island of Lesbos

LAST UPDATE | 26 Nov 2023

ONE MEMBER OF the Comoros-flagged ship that sank in gale-force winds off the Greek Aegean island of Lesbos has been found dead during a major rescue operation.

One other crew member has been rescued and 12 more are still missing, the Greek coastguard has said.

The body of a man was located and taken to the port of Mytilene, the capital of Lesbos, a statement said.

A navy helicopter earlier picked up one crew member from the RAPTOR cargo ship, who was taken to Lesbos General Hospital alive.

“He is in a state of shock”, coastguard spokesman Nikos Alexiou told AFP, without providing further details. The fate of the other 12 is not immediately clear.

Five cargo ships, three coast guard vessels, air force and navy helicopters as well as a navy frigate have joined the rescue effort.

Authorities said the cargo ship, which was carrying 14 crew members and was loaded with salt, went down 4.5 nautical miles (8.3 kilometres) southwest of Lesbos, near the coast of Turkey, early today.

The 106-metre ship, built in 1984, had sailed from Dekheila, Egypt, heading for Istanbul.

The Athens News Agency (ANA), quoting the vessel’s operating company based in Lebanon, said the crew included 11 Egyptians, two Syrians and one Indian.

According to the authorities, the ship first reported a mechanical failure at 7am local time.

At 8.20am, the captain reported that the ship was listing, and activated the “mayday” distress signal before disappearing from the radar, Alexiou told AFP.

According to ANA, the heavily-laden vessel was believed to have taken on water in the hold due to strong waves, causing it to list and sink.

Ships remained docked across several parts of Greece over the weekend, with wind speeds reaching 9-10 on the Beaufort scale, or strong gale to storm force.

An emergency weather warning by the Hellenic National Meteorological Service (EMY) was upgraded on Saturday from “worsening weather” to “dangerous weather phenomena”, as Storm Oliver (also called Bettina) moved from the Adriatic Sea toward Greece.

Earlier this month, a historic Greek warship was damaged by gale force winds after repeatedly hitting a dock.

The country has been struck by repeated flooding over recent months after facing a series of storms.

Central Greece was devastated in September by cataclysmic amounts of rain dumped by Storm Daniel, destroying crops and killing tens of thousands of farm animals across a wide area that is the heart of Greece’s agricultural production.

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