Coastguard rescues 24 fishermen in Pacific Ocean

A COASTGUARD helicopter rescued 24 fishermen as they desperately clung to the deck of a tilting, half-submerged ship being pounded by high waves yesterday morning off an island chain southwest of Tokyo.

One Japanese crewmember thrown from the rocking ship into the rough seas before the arrival of the rescuers was found dead ashore later.

The Fukuei Maru No. 8 stalled due to an engine failure on Sunday evening in the Pacific Ocean, about five hours after it departed the Yaizu Port in central Japan en route to South America for tuna fishing.

It apparently drifted in the rough seas and was blown by the strong wind, and the captain sent a distress signal about five hours later, saying his ship hit the rocks.

The coastguard sent three patrol ships and three helicopters with special rescue teams to the site where the 56m, 379-tonne ship went aground just north of Kozushima Island, part of the Izu group and about 170km southwest of Tokyo.

NHK showed the crewmembers standing against the bridge of the half-submerged ship as the waves pounded into it, each person waiting for their turn as fellow crewmembers were airlifted one by one by the helicopter hovering overhead.

The ship carried 20 Indonesian crewmembers and five Japanese, including its captain. — AP

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