13 missing from ship off coast of Madagascar; two rescued

Monday, July 14, 2008

Thirteen people are missing from a boat believed to have sunk off Madagascar's Sainte Marie island on Thursday. Several Chinese people were on board, as well as some from Madagascar. Two crewmembers are safely rescued.

There appears to be one man from the Chinese mainland on board. Xinhua reports that there are also eight from Taiwan, and all are businessmen. In addition there are four crewmembers left, with two others rescued. The crew were all locals.

The boat had left Sainte Marie to travel 100km North to Masoala so that the businessmen could inspect some fishery assets. According to what Xinhua described as "a reliable source" at around 8:40 p.m. (1740 GMT) the vessel dropped anchor for reasons unknown about 20km from the coast. It is also reported the ship's engine had failed and she was taking on water.

It is known that at around 12:40 a.m. Friday (2140 GMT Thursday) Liu Shouzhi, one of the Taiwanese on board, called his wife. He told her that the ship was in danger of capsizing due to strong winds. Contact with the vessel was lost shortly after.

According to the rescued crewmembers, who were picked up on Saturday morning, those on board the ship had abandoned her in two groups. All of them had life jackets on at the time. They reported the ship could carry thirty passengers.

The Madagascan Navy, coast guard and police are all participating in the search and rescue operation. Six ships and a number of aircraft have been deployed, and soldiers are assisting police in searching the nearby coastline.