Hurricane Joaquin Sinks American Cargo Ship Near the Bahamas

Hurricane Joaquin

The American cargo ship that was reported to be missing on Oct. 2, is now believed to have sunk in the murky waters of Crooked Island, which is located southwest of the Bahamas. This was after the violent Category 4 hurricane, Joaquin, swept over the archipelago relentlessly for three days, beginning Oct. 1, 2015. The vessel was carrying 28 Americans and five Polish nationals. It was on its way to San Juan, Puerto Rico, from Jacksonville, Florida, when it got stranded in one of the worst storms in Bahamian history. As the frantic search for survivors continues, unconfirmed reports suggest that there is at least one fatality from the ill-fated ship after a survival suit and human remains were discovered.

The U.S. Coast Guard has to date conducted aerial searches covering more than 80,000 square nautical miles in an effort to find any signs of life. Mark Fedor, Coast Guard captain, told reporters, “We believe the ship sank on Thursday night and we will continue searching for survivors.” The Florida-based ship, which was loaded with motor vehicles, trucks and trailers, lost contact with authorities as it got caught up in the eye of the storm on Friday. Reports suggest that the ship, named El Faro, had to endure towering waves as it negotiated for safety.

Hurricane Joaquin

In a brief statement from the owners of the vessel, TOTE Services, the corporation said all efforts necessary were being taken to find survivors from the doomed cargo ship. “Our prayers and thoughts go out to the family members and we will continue to offer support during this difficult time,” read the statement. The American cargo ship failed to communicate with its Florida-based officials as it approached the Bahamas at the height of Hurricane Joaquin.

However, the Bahamas Air Sea and Rescue Association, which could not offer a helping hand in finding the vessel due to jurisdictional issues, emphasized the importance of finding survivors. “The fact that there has been no communication is not good news. Efforts should be directed towards finding any form of life and then salvage the wreckage later,” said Chris Lloyd, head of the operations at the association, during a press conference. He added that the Bahamian authorities will do whatever is necessary to help locate the stranded American cargo ship, which is believed to have sunk after being caught up  in Hurricane Joaquin, taking its 33 crew members with it.

On Saturday, the Bahamian Department of Meteorology Forecast Office issued an all-clear signal for the entire Bahamas as well as the Turks and Caicos Islands, saying Hurricane Joaquin was “rapidly moving away from the area.” Hurricane Joaquin headed northeast of San Salvador at a speed of 14 miles per hour compared to the top speed of 155 miles per hour reached on Friday.

Phil Klotzbach, a weather expert and researcher at Colorado State, said this does not mean the coast is clear yet. He said even if the skies had cleared up the past two days, there is a possibility of showers and thunderstorms and this might affect the search for survivors. “After such a storm, the probability of showers and thunderstorms is still high, and this might affect rescue and search operations,” he said in an interview. He contributed this to the “slow movement” of the hurricane as it moved away from the sprawling islands of the Bahamas.

Hurricane Joaquin is reported to be among the most devastating storms in the Bahamas since 1886. According to Washington Post, the hurricane is among the top five natural hazards to ravage the islands. It reportedly dropped to a very dangerous low pressure of 931 millibars with a top wind speed of 135 miles per hour on its first day, Thursday night. It is also at this time the missing American cargo ship was on its way to Puerto Rico.

By Shepherd Mutsvara

Sources: Hurricane Alert #27: All Clear Given for Entire Bahamas Fate Unknown of Florida-Based Ship Caught in Hurricane Joaquin Off Bahamas US Coast Guard Continues to Search for Survivors after El Faro Ship Sunk amid Hurricane Joaquin

Top Article and Featured Image Courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inline Image Courtesy of Brian Luster’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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