TOKYO/WELLINGTON — A ship carrying 43 crew and nearly 6,000 cattle from New Zealand to China capsized after losing an engine in stormy weather in the East China Sea, the only crew member rescued so far told Japan’s coastguard on Thursday.
The Gulf Livestock 1 sent a distress call from the west of Amami Oshima island in southwestern Japan on Wednesday as Typhoon Maysak lashed the area with strong winds and heavy seas.
Japan’s coastguard said it had rescued one crew member, Sareno Edvarodo, a 45-year-old chief officer from the Philippines, on Wednesday night (Tokyo time) while searching for the ship.
According to Edvarodo, the ship lost an engine before it was hit by a wave and capsized, a coastguard spokeswoman said.
When the ship capsized, crew were instructed to put on lifejackets. Edvarodo told the coastguard he jumped into the water and did not see any other crew members before he was rescued.
Pictures provided by the coastguard showed a person in a lifejacket being hauled from choppy seas in darkness.
Three vessels, five airplanes and two divers had been deployed to continue the search, the coastguard said.
The crew included 39 people from the Philippines, two from New Zealand, and two from Australia, it added.
The Philippines government said it was coordinating with the Japanese coastguard as it searched for the missing crew members ahead of another typhoon building in the region.
Typhoon Haishen is brewing south of Japan and is expected to hit the Korean coast on Sunday or Monday.
At least one person was reported killed in South Korea in the southern city of Busan after Typhoon Maysak made landfall on Thursday, bringing strong winds and heavy rain.
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The Gulf Livestock 1 departed Napier in New Zealand on Aug. 14 with a cargo of 5,867 cattle bound for the Port of Jingtang in Tangshan, China. The journey was expected to take about 17 days, New Zealand’s foreign ministry told Reuters.
The 139 metre (450 ft), Panamanian-flagged vessel was built in 2002 and the registered owner is Amman-based Rahmeh Compania Naviera SA, according to Refinitiv Eikon data. The ship manager is Hijazi & Ghosheh Co. Calls to the owner and manager were unanswered.
New Zealand animal rights organisation SAFE said the tragedy demonstrated the risks of the live animal export trade.
“These cows should never have been at sea,” said campaigns manager Marianne Macdonald.
“This is a real crisis, and our thoughts are with the families of the 43 crew who are missing with the ship. But questions remain, including why this trade is allowed to continue.”
Last year, New Zealand launched a review of its live export trade, worth around NZ$54 million ($37 million) in 2019, after thousands of animals being exported from New Zealand and Australia died in transit.
New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) said it had temporarily suspended live cattle export applications after the Gulf Livestock 1 went missing.