Death toll rises in Lebanon's sinking ship

Death toll rises in Lebanon's sinking ship

At least eleven bodies were discovered Friday by an international rescue team in a search operation off the coast of Lebanon for around 30 crew members still missing after their ship capsized in a storm, dpa reported.

Among the dead was the British captain of the Panamanian-flagged Dany F II, which was carrying thousands of sheep and cattle, a Lebanese army source said.

Nine fatalities had been reported earlier, before two new bodies were discovered by the UN Maritime Task Force.

Forty-five survivors were picked up late Thursday and early Friday, following a distress call from the captain, prompting ships from Lebanon and a United Nations maritime peace mission to rush to the scene.

According to the Lebanese army no new survivors were found after nightfall.

The Dany F II was on its way from the Uruguay capital of Montevideo to the Syrian port of Tartus when it was hit by Thursday night's storm and altered course for Lebanon.

 Earlier, a surviving crew member who said he was from Pakistan confirmed to the German Press Agency dpa that the captain was among the dead.

"I heard the captain sending rescue calls and then I heard him saying the engine stopped. ... That is all I can remember," said the shivering man, who was taken by ambulance to a hospital in Tripoli.

A Lebanese Red Cross volunteer attending to the rescued crew told dpa: "All the survivors who were transferred to hospital were wearing their life jackets." Many were in shock and suffering cuts and bruises.

"They told us the captain sounded the alarm and they felt the engine stop, and then they heard the captain shout 'jump into the water'," the volunteer quoted one of the survivors as telling him.

The British embassy in Beirut confirmed that the vessel had two British citizens on board but did not give names.

"The major international rescue launched Thursday has so far pulled 45 out the 82 people who were on board from the rough Mediterranean waters," a Lebanese army communique said Friday.

The statement said two British helicopters sent from Cyprus were taking part in the operation, in addition to an Italian warship and two German logistics ships with the UN Maritime Task Force.

A Lebanese army officer near Tripoli told dpa the rescue mission was proving difficult because of "the high waves and because there are a lot of dead animals floating in the water."

Most of the crew were believed to be Pakistanis but there were also nationals from Australia, Russia, Lebanon, Syria, the Philippines, Britain and Uruguay.

There was no confirmation on the number of livestock on board, but port officials in Tripoli said the vessel's manifesto showed it was carrying 10,000 sheep and 18,000 cattle.

This would account for the large number of crew, many of whom were looking after the animals, port sources said.

Last week, a cargo ship heading to the northern Israeli port of Haifa from Greece, sank in stormy weather in international waters near the Lebanese coast. Six of its 12 crew members were rescued by the Israeli navy.

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