Sailors missing after gale-force winds sink freighter off Greece

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Twelve people are missing, one person has been rescued and one person has been confirmed dead, after a cargo ship sank off a Greek island.

Greek rescuers are currently searching for survivors after The Raptor sank five nautical miles off Lesbos on Sunday morning (26 November 2023) after the captain issued a distress call and reported the ship was listing amid poor conditions.

The 106m vessel, which was built in 1984, had set off from El Dekheila port in Egypt and was sailing to Istanbul in Turkey when the incident happened.

According to the Greek coastguard, the Comoros-flagged ship reported a mechanical failure before issuing the mayday. The vessel was carrying 6,000 tonnes of salt and was crewed by 14 Egyptian, Syrian and Indian nationals.

The Hellenic National Meteorological Service (EMY) upgraded its emergency weather warning from “worsening weather” to “dangerous weather phenomena” on Sunday, as Storm Oliver moved from the Adriatic Sea toward Greece.

One person, an Egyptian, was found floating on a barrel and was airlifted by Navy helicopter to hospital as wind speeds reached storm force levels.

Eight merchant ships, two helicopters and one Greek navy frigate have joined the rescue efforts, while three additional coastguard vessels had difficulty reaching the area because of rough seas.

The Athens News Agency (ANA) reports the heavily laden vessel took on water in the hold due to strong waves, causing it to list and sink.

It’s reported that the ship had a history of inspection deficiencies, including an astonishing 65 problems recorded during an 18-day detention in Romania in August 2023.

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