SS El Faro missing in Caribbean with 33 POB. Sun Shipbuilding ships were often mistaken for aircraft carriers at sea. pic.twitter.com/fghMqR00s4— SeaWaves Magazine (@seawaves_mag) 2 октября 2015
The crew of the 735-foot cargo vessel last contacted the Coast Guard Atlantic Area command center in Portsmouth, Virginia at about 7:30 in the morning on Thursday, reporting that the ship was taking on water. The Inmarsat satellite notification made at approximately the same time indicated that, as of Thursday morning, the El Faro had lost propulsion and had a 15-degree list, according to GCaptain.
28 of the crewmembers are US nationals and five are Polish.
"There are a number of possible reasons for the loss of communications, among them the increasing severity of Hurricane Joaquin," Tim Nolan, the president of TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico, the company that owns the ship, said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the individuals and their families."
On Tuesday, when the El Faro departed Jacksonville, Joaquin was just a tropical storm. But as the storm reached the Bahamas on Thursday, it gained power, turning into category-4 hurricane.
Weather experts believe the hurricane won’t weaken until Saturday. That means that conditions will continue to impede the work of the coast guard and other searchers looking for the El Faro.
Two aircrews, including a C-130 Hercules plane operating at low altitude and "hurricane hunter" aircraft, were sent to the believed location of the ship’s disappearance. Coast Guard officials said that some surface vessels are taking part in the rescue operation as well.
Hurricane Joaquin left thousands without electricity in the Bahamas and communication was lost to two of the chain’s more sparsely populated islands. There have been no reports of deaths or injuries.
Meteorologists say Joaquin will likely spare the US coastline, but areas from Charleston, South Carolina, to Washington, DC are expected to be deluged and have been warned about possible coastal flooding.