Spain was in mourning for its worst fishing tragedy in nearly 40 years as rescuers warned on Wednesday they were unlikely to find any further survivors of a ship that sank in rough seas off Newfoundland.
Search teams have so far confirmed 10 dead and rescued three survivors from a life raft, and the search continues for 11 more people who are still missing.
“Once again the people of the sea have been hit very hard,” said Alberto Núñez Feijóo, president of Spain’s northwest region of Galicia, where the boat was based.
“Galicia is a big family and when a family is struck by a tragic event, they unite in mourning to seek comfort,” he said, announcing three days of mourning for the victims.
In Madrid, lawmakers observed a minute’s silence in parliament for the dead and missing from the trawler, which sank about 250 nautical miles (463 km) east of Newfoundland, leaving only three confirmed survivors.
Of the 24 crew members, 16 were Spanish, five Peruvians and three Ghanaians.
Luis Planas, Spain’s agriculture and fisheries minister, described the loss of the trawler as “the biggest tragedy in the fishing sector in the last 38 years” – a reference to the sinking of the Islamar III, a sardine boat off the Canary Islands in July 1984, with the loss of 26 lives.
“It’s a job that is not only very hard but also very dangerous,” he added.
Planas said eight vessels, including Spanish and Portuguese fishing boats, joined the search for survivors from Villa de Pitanxo, after the 50-metre (164ft) fishing vessel sent out a distress signal at 4 a.m. 24 GMT Tuesday.
As of Wednesday morning, hopes of finding the 11 missing crew members were fading. “Although we still hope to find survivors alive, it is now unlikely that any other survivors will be found,” Nicolas Plourde-Fleury, of Canada’s Department of National Defense in Halifax, Nova Scotia, told AFP. Scotland, adding that the search was continuing.
“We’re talking about a rescue…in extremely difficult sea conditions, with water temperatures that mean once a person falls in, it won’t last long,” Feijóo said.
Writing on Twitter, Spain’s sea rescue service said rescuers were battling very rough seas with “6-7 meter high waves” which “complicated the search operation and made visibility difficult”.
It was not immediately clear what had caused the sinking of the boat. Planas said it was operating in a fishing area “of immense value but which also has very significant climatological problems”.
Among the survivors were the ship’s captain, Juan Padín Costas, and his nephew, Eduardo Rial Padín, whose mother expressed relief in remarks on Spanish public television. “I’m relieved because he’s alive, thank God, but sad because that can’t be said for many of his colleagues,” said Gloria Padín Costas.
So far, no information has been made public about the victims or those still missing at sea.
“Although we cannot find any survivors, it is very important that the families recover the bodies,” said Javier Touza, head of the shipowners’ cooperative in the city of Vigo in northwestern Spain. on the Antena 3 television channel.
The families of the crew desperately awaited news of their loved ones. “We just want to know if he is dead or alive,” Carlos Ordóñez told La Voz de Galicia newspaper, referring to his nephew William Arévalo Pérez. “We already know what happens when you fall into waters like Newfoundland. Survival is a matter of minutes.
The survivors were found on a life raft by a Spanish fishing boat five hours after Villa de Pitanxo made a distress call. Suffering from hypothermia, they were airlifted by a Canadian helicopter.
“No one is emotionally ready to receive such shocking news,” Feijóo said, vowing “to honor those who lost their lives at sea.”