Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food/via AP
MADRID — A Spanish fishing boat sank early Tuesday in rough seas off Newfoundland, eastern Canada, killing at least seven people, a Spanish official said. Three crew members were rescued from a lifeboat and a maritime search was launched for the other 14 crew members still missing in heavy seas.
The 50-meter (164-foot) fishing boat named Villa de Pitanxo, which operates in Spain’s northwest region of Galicia, sank in darkness (around 06:00 GMT, 1:00 a.m. EST), the representative said. Spanish regional, Maica Larriba, to the Spanish public. radio.
The sunken ship’s 24-member crew included 16 Spaniards, five Peruvians and three workers from Ghana, the Spanish Maritime Rescue Service said.
The head of the regional government of Galicia, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, said the Spanish ambassador to Canada told him that seven bodies had been found.
“The sea was very rough,” he told reporters.
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 06:00 GMT, a Galician government official, Maica Larriba, told Spanish public broadcaster RTVE.
A rescue center in Halifax, Nova Scotia, operated by the Canadian Air Force and Coast Guard, has dispatched helicopters, planes and a rescue vessel to the area, which is 450 kilometers away (280 miles) off the island of Newfoundland.
Lt Cmdr. Brian Owens, a spokesman for the rescue centre, 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 debris site, where “a number” of Spanish fishing vessels were also assisting, he said.
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 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.
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 recorded for the community.
“We can’t remember anything worse than this,” Ramallo told Spanish news agency EFE.