TOKYO (AFP) – Japan’s coast guard said Friday (Sept 4) they found a man floating face-down and unresponsive at sea as they searched for survivors from a ship that sank during a typhoon with 43 crew on board.
One survivor has so far been rescued from the ship, and early Friday morning, a coast guard vessel “discovered a man face-down adrift at sea,” a statement said.
It was unclear if the man, described as “unconscious”, was still alive as only a certified medical professional can declare someone dead in Japan.
“The rescued man… is currently being transported to Amami Oshima” island, around 120km away, the coast guard statement added.
The man was discovered as the coast guard continues to search for survivors from the Gulf Livestock 1, a cargo ship carrying nearly 6,000 cows, that sank off Japan’s west coast as Typhoon Maysak passed through the area.
The ship sent a distress signal early on Wednesday, and the coast guard was able to rescue one survivor that evening – a Filipino chief officer who was found bobbing in the open ocean in a life jacket.
Dramatic photos and video released by the coast guard showed the 45-year-old floating in the darkness and being pulled onto a boat with a rope as rescuers battled violent, rolling waves.
He was quickly brought to a large vessel, where coast guard personnel with surgical masks and gloves wrapped him with blankets.
“Water,” said the man, who identified himself as a Filipino in the video. “Thank you, thank you very much.” “I am the only one? No other one?” he asked.
SECOND TYPHOON APPROACHES
The man told rescuers that he had put on a life jacket and dived into the sea after a warning announcement on board on Wednesday.
He said one of the boat’s engines had stopped and a wave then overturned the ship, which later sank, the coast guard said in a statement.
There were no details on when and where the ship sank, but the man said he had not seen other crew members while waiting to be rescued.
A rubber boat was spotted late Wednesday in the area being searched for survivors, but the coast guard said they had not confirmed if it was linked to the ship.
The coast guard said Friday they had seen dead livestock, and retrieved a life jacket. Four coast guard vessels, a defence ministry plane and specially trained divers are involved in the search-and-rescue operation.
Japan is currently in its annual typhoon season, and a second massive storm is on course to arrive in the same area around Sunday, according to local forecasters, potentially limiting the time the coast guard can continue to search.
The ship was carrying a crew of 39 Filipinos, two New Zealanders and two Australians, and was travelling from Napier in New Zealand to the Chinese port of Tangshan.
It had experienced engine problems before: a 2019 observer report by Australian authorities noted that the boat was unable to manoeuvre for 25 hours after an issue with its main engine while en route to China.
New Zealand’s Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) said Thursday it was temporarily suspending live cattle exports after the accident.
“MPI wants to understand what happened on the sailing of the Gulf Livestock 1,” it said.
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