The US Coast Guard said Monday that it assumes the cargo ship El Faro, which went missing last week with 33 people on board, sank in bad weather associated with Hurricane Joaquin.
“Based on all facts, we assume that the vessel sank, but we are still looking for survivors,” Captain Mark Fedor, chief of response at the Seventh Coast Guard District, told a press conference in Miami.
Fedor has been in charge of efforts to rescue El Faro, a 224-metre ship that was en route from Florida to Puerto Rico with 33 crew members. The ship was last heard from Thursday, as Hurricane Joaquin gained strength.
Fedor said that, due to weather conditions, it was impossible to launch the search on Friday and efforts were very difficult on Saturday.
On Sunday, a search using ships and aircraft turned up life jackets, life rings and other debris, along with a light boat. Authorities found human remains in one of the survival suits, but it has been impossible to identify them, Fedor said.
“Right now, we are not looking for the vessel, we are out there searching more focused on [finding] people on the water,” he said.
If the crew really did leave the ship Thursday amid hurricane conditions, staying alive would have been difficult.
“Hopefully we can find survivors,” Fedor said.