A Spanish fishing boat sank early Tuesday in rough seas off Newfoundland in eastern Canada, killing at least 10 people, officials said. Three crew members were rescued from a lifeboat and a maritime search is underway for the other 11 crew members still missing in rough seas.
The 50-meter-long fishing boat named Villa de Pitanxo, which operates in the Galicia region of northwest Spain, sank in the dark (around 1 a.m. EST), the representative said. Spanish regional, Maica Larriba, on Spanish public radio.
The 24-member crew included 16 Spaniards, five Peruvians and three workers from Ghana, the Spanish maritime rescue service said.
A rescue center in Halifax, Nova Scotia, operated by the Canadian Air Force and Coast Guard, dispatched a helicopter, a Hercules aircraft and a rescue vessel to the area, which is 450 kilometers (280 miles) off the island of Newfoundland.
Seven people had been confirmed dead by Tuesday afternoon. Tuesday evening, the rescue center confirmed on Twitter that crews had found three more bodies, bringing the total death toll to 10.
Earlier, Lieutenant Commander Brian Owens, spokesman for the rescue center, said high winds, rough seas and fog were hampering the search, centered on the wreckage field of the sunken ship.
Owens said three Cormorant helicopters circled in and out of the search area, while a provincial airlines plane and a C-130 Hercules hovered over the area performing sensor scans. The Canadian Coast Guard vessel Cygnus was still en route to the wreckage site, where “a number” of Spanish fishing vessels were also assisting, he said.
Survivors included the ship’s captain, 53, and his 42-year-old nephew, according to La Voz de Galicia newspaper. Both men contacted their families by phone, the newspaper reported.
The signal from the ship’s on-board data recorder, used to track ships, stopped transmitting around 0600 GMT, Galicia government official Maica Larriba told Spanish state broadcaster RTVE.
A Spanish fishing boat working not far from the sinking site was the first to arrive and found three survivors and four bodies in one of the fishing boat’s four lifeboats, officials said. Two of the rescue boats were empty and the fourth was reported missing.
The survivors “were in a state of hypothermic shock because the water temperature is horrible, very low,” Maica Larriba, Spain’s central government representative in the Galicia region, told public radio.
The Spanish Maritime Rescue Center in Madrid, the Spanish capital, received the first alert from the Villa de Pitanxo beacon and coordinated the rapid response with the rescue center in Halifax, a spokeswoman for the service said.
The boat’s owner, Grupo Nores, did not immediately respond to calls or written questions. According to its website, the group operates fishing fleets in the waters off Argentina, Canada, Morocco, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal as well as in the North Sea.
“We are following with concern the search and rescue operation for the crew of the Galician ship that sank in Newfoundland waters,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez tweeted. “All my love to their families. The government remains in constant contact with the emergency services.”
The news dealt a tragic blow to the port town of Marin in northwest Galicia, where many live off the sea. Marin Mayor María Ramallo said the sinking of the boat was the biggest tragedy never registered for the community.
“We can’t remember anything worse than this,” Ramallo told Spanish news agency EFE.