PETALING JAYA: The six missing crewmen of the Malaysian-flagged freighter Selendang Ayu are still missing, two days after the helicopter rescuing them from their struggling ship crashed in a winter storm in the Bering Sea, near Alaska.
Hopes of finding the non-Malaysian crew alive appear to be dwindling as search and rescue operations have been suspended due to extremely bad weather conditions.
The US Coast Guard, on their website, said the wrecked fuselage of the crashed HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter had washed up on the beach near Skan Bay, Alaska, but despite efforts throughout the day, none of the missing people were sighted.
The helicopter was conducting rescue operations on the disabled ship and was airlifting the sailors when it crashed in choppy waters in the Bering Sea.
Half-an-hour into the rescue effort, the ship, which had been floundering since Tuesday, ran aground and broke in two.
Four passengers from the helicopter – three Coast Guard personnel and a member of the ship’s crew – were rescued.
Six others, including the Selendang Ayu's chief engineer, were lost at sea.
According to the Anchorage Daily News, Loh C.W. Weng, a spokesman for the ship's Singaporean owner IMC Transworld, said the company's agents had contacted the families of the missing men.
“They're praying very hard that everyone is okay,” he said.
The widening oil slick from the Selendang Ayu is threatening to be the largest marine spill in Alaska since the 41.6-million-litre Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989.
The Coast Guard and tugboats had been trying since Tuesday to halt the drifting freighter but 7.6m-high swells and 30-knot winds broke towlines on each attempt.
In a release through the US Coast Guard website, IMC Shipping group managing director Peter Chew expressed his gratitude to the Coast Guard for their efforts in rescuing the crew.
The search for the crewmen is expected to continue today.
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