Turkish rescue teams have hauled four more bodies from the bottom of the Black Sea, bringing the confirmed death toll in the shipwreck of a 31-year-old general cargo ship to five.
All seven remaining members of the Turkish crew are still missing, six days after the 3,134-dwt Kafkametler (built 1992) sank in a storm just off the coast at Eregli, east of Istanbul.
“We are constantly searching not only the inside of the ship but also in the surrounding area here,” turkdeniz.com cited Okay Memis, head of Turkey’s Disaster & Emergency Management Authority, as saying on Friday.
Search and rescue operations have been going on non-stop since the Kafkametler, registered with one-ship firm Kafkametler Maritime, went missing early on Sunday, 19 November.
The ship was reported drifting towards a military breakwater at Eregli in a raging storm that caused several other casualties at sea and onshore. Turkish authorities declared the entire area a disaster zone.
Divers later found the ship at a depth of about 25 metres. The dead body of one crew member washed up on the shore early on Monday.
The Kafkametler was carrying about 1,500 tonnes of ferrosilicon from Temryuk, a port on the Russian side of the Sea of Azov, to Aliaga, Turkey.
About a month before it sank, the Kafkametler was rocked by an explosion as it was sailing near the entrance of the Sulina Canal on the Ukraine-Romania border.
Media and maritime security agencies reported that the vessel hit a mine, but Turkish authorities insisted that the unexplained explosion actually happened behind the ship, at a distance of between 15 and 20 metres.
The same storm that wrecked the Kafkametler on 19 November also smashed the 55-year-old, 3,180-dwt general cargo ship Pallada (built 1968) on the Eregli shore, breaking its hull in two.
Fortunately, all 13 seafarers on board the Cameroon-flagged ship had been evacuated.
A tugboat saved a dozen seafarers on board a second Cameroon-flagged cargo ship that was drifting in the same area after its ropes broke — the 2,478-dwt Sormovskiy-45 (built 1982).