A cargo ship carrying 43 crew and nearly 6,000 cattle sank off Japan after reportedly losing an engine in rough seas caused by Typhoon Maysak, a survivor has said.
The Filipino crew member, named as Sareno Edvarodo, a 45-year-old chief officer, was rescued late on Wednesday after Japanese navy P-3C surveillance aircraft spotted him wearing a life vest and waving while bobbing in the water.
Edvarodo, who was in good health, told rescuers the ship capsized before sinking, said Yuichiro Higashi, a spokesman for the Japanese coast guard’s regional headquarters conducting the search.
The Panamanian-registered vessel, called Gulf Livestock 1, sent the distress call from the East China Sea early on Wednesday, to the west of Amami Oshima Island in south-western Japan, Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported.
According to Edvarodo, the ship lost an engine before it was hit by a wave and capsized, a coastguard spokeswoman said.
Crew were instructed to put on lifejackets as the ship capsized, he said, adding that he had jumped into the water and had not seen any other members of the crew before he was rescued.
The crew comprises 39 Filipinos, two Australians and two New Zealanders, Kyodo news agency said.
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Dfat) said it was in touch with the families of the two Australians on board.
“The Australian government is providing consular assistance to the families of two Australian crew members on board a cargo vessel reported missing in Japanese waters,” DFAT said.
The cause of the distress was not immediately known, but the weather was rough in the area due to Typhoon Maysak. Strong winds and torrential rain from the typhoon had initially hampered the search operation, but the weather has improved, Higashi said.
The vessel, owned by Gulf Navigation Holding based in the United Arab Emirates, departed Napier in New Zealand on 14 August with 5,867 cattle on board, New Zealand’s foreign ministry told Reuters.
The vessel was en route to the Port of Jingtang in Tangshan, China, with an estimated journey of approximately 17 days, it said.
New Zealand animal rights organisation SAFE said the tragedy demonstrated the risks of the live animal export trade.
“These cows should never have been at sea,” said campaigns manager Marianne Macdonald.
“This is a real crisis, and our thoughts are with the families of the 43 crew who are missing with the ship. But questions remain, including why this trade is allowed to continue.”
Typhoon Maysak had weakened to a tropical storm as it arrived off the east coast of North Korea on Thursday.
The country is vulnerable to natural disasters due to its poor infrastructure, with flooding in deforested mountains and hills a particular concern.