One dead after ship sinks off Greek island

One dead after ship sinks off Greek island

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

ATHENS - Greek rescuers on Sunday were searching for 12 people missing after a ship sank in gale-force winds off the Aegean island of Lesbos, with the authorities finding one crew member dead and saving another.

A helicopter last flew to the wreck site at 7:00 pm (1700 GMT) while seven vessels, a coastguard vessel and a frigate were to continue combing the area all night long, the Greek coastguard told AFP.

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

In the morning, a navy helicopter had picked up one crew member from the Comoros-flagged Raptor cargo ship who was taken to Lesbos General Hospital alive.

The ERT state-run news website said the man, an Egyptian, was found floating on a barrel and in good health despite head wounds.

"He is in a state of shock," coastguard spokesman Nikos Alexiou had told AFP.

The fate of the other 12 was not immediately clear but hopes were dimming as darkness fell.

Authorities said the Raptor, which was carrying 14 crew members and was loaded with salt, went down 4.5 nautical miles southwest of Lesbos, near the Turkish coast, early Sunday.

The 106-metre (348-foot) 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 7:00 am local time.

At 8:20 am, 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.

Media reports said it carried 6,000 tonnes of salt.

- 'Dangerous weather' warning -

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.

There is so far no report of sea pollution.

"We don't expect an oil spill, at least an extensive one, because there was no collision. Now we are focusing on locating the sailors," a senior coastguard source told AFP.

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