TRIPOLI, Lebanon, (Reuters) – U.N. peacekeepers’ vessels and Lebanese navy boats searched on Friday for more survivors from a cargo ship carrying more than 80 people and livestock that sank in the Mediterranean off Lebanon.
Lebanese military and port sources said 39 sailors had been rescued and nine bodies recovered since the Panamanian-flagged Danny FII capsized in stormy weather on Thursday.
An army statement said three U.N. peacekeeping vessels, Lebanese army boats and Cyprus-based British military helicopters were involved in overnight rescue efforts which it said continued throughout Friday.
Security sources said survival chances were looking increasingly dim for the remaining 35 missing sailors more than 24 hours after the ship sank.
Naval sources said that high waves and strong winds were hampering the search in the area where the ship sank 17 km (11 miles) off the northern Lebanese port of Tripoli. “This is a very tragic incident and our UNIFIL Maritime Task Force peacekeepers are doing their utmost to save the lives of the victims,” U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon Major-General Claudio Graziano said in a statement. “We hope that our joint efforts with the Lebanese navy will help minimise the number of casualties.”
Most of the survivors were brought to shore and taken to hospitals in Lebanon.
The ship was transporting 43,000 sheep from Uruguay to Tartous in Syria. The crew were mostly from the Philippines and Pakistan, the sources said.
UNIFIL has a naval task force that monitors Lebanese waters to prevent weapons from reaching the country’s Hezbollah guerrilla force, which fought a war with Israel in 2006.
Two of the search ships were German and the third was Italian.
Last week, an Israel-bound Turkish cargo ship capsized in international waters some 80 km (50 miles) off the Lebanese coast and seven of its crew went missing.