16 Missing crew of Taiwanese longliner capsized during Cyclone Freddy

From Vel Moonien in Mauritius

A 98-ton longliner flying the Taiwanese flag was christened on Sunday, February 19 Lien Sheng Co lost radio contact with Taipei while cruising in international waters in the Indian Ocean, 215 nautical miles from Rodrigues Island – a Mauritius dependent island.

At the time, violent Tropical Cyclone Freddy was approaching with gusts estimated at 170 mph near its eye. The Lien Sheng Fa carried 16 crew members, including a Taiwanese captain and 15 Indonesians, on a fishing campaign in the north of the Indian Ocean.

Late Thursday evening, February 23, Taiwanese authorities contacted the National Coast Guard (NCG) in Mauritius, requesting a search and rescue operation for the missing vessel. The NCG sent the CGS Barracuda, an offshore patrol boat, and the Dornier, an aircraft, to search for survivors. Ships in the area were also called to report floating objects. The French authorities on Reunion Island have been asked for assistance.

The toppled fuselage Lien Sheng Co was finally found by the on Friday February 24th star venture, a cargo ship 115 nautical miles from the island, adrift in Mauritius’ territorial waters. Two days later, the CGS Barracuda encountered the wreck 125 nautical miles from the island. Divers confirmed the ship’s identity, inspected the cabins and found no one on board. The holds were inaccessible as they were closed and the engine room was flooded. The few life jackets on board were in poor condition and no life rafts were found. The Dornier flew over the area but no survivors were found.

In addition to Lien Sheng Coalso asked the Taiwanese authorities for assistance in locating the 40-ton trawler Sheng Feng No. 128which disappeared on Saturday February 18 with a Taiwanese captain and five Indonesians on board 414 nautical miles northwest of the island of Malakal in the Palau archipelago.

The US Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center described violent tropical cyclone Freddy as an unusually long-lived cyclone that formed off the coast of north-west Australia, found its way as far as Africa and claimed several lives as it made landfall in Madagascar before striking back on the island after hitting Africa.

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