‘Please keep looking’, families beg as hunt for Spanish shipwreck crew ends

Relatives of the 12 crew members missing when a Spanish trawler sank in stormy waters off Canada, begged Thursday for the search to continue after officials ended the hunt for survivors.

'Please keep looking', families beg as hunt for Spanish shipwreck crew ends
A relative of Rogelio Franco, one of the Peruvian crew member of the "Villa de Pitanxo" trawler that sank off the coast of Canada, shows a picture of Rogelio on his smartphone in the port city of Marín, on February 17, 2022. - Flags at half-mast, black ribbons everywhere and families devastated by grief, the Spanish port town of Marín was left reeling after a deadly shipwreck left 21 sailors dead or missing at sea. (Photo by MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP)

Canadian rescue teams on Wednesday called off their search efforts some 36 hours after the Villa de Pitanxo with 24 people on board sank in rough and frigid seas off the coast of Newfoundland.

Onboard were 16 Spaniards, five Peruvians and three Ghanaians.

Three crew members were plucked from a life raft early in Tuesday suffering from severe hypothermia and rescuers have since recovered nine bodies, leaving 12 others missing, presumed drowned.

“We have to keep looking for the bodies, we can’t leave 12 people stranded in the sea,” said John Okutu, uncle of Edemon Okutu, one of the crew members from Ghana who is among the missing.

“If Canada can’t keep on looking, the Spanish must go, that’s what the families want,” he told journalists in Marín in the northwestern region of Galicia where the vessel was based.

Standing at his side, Kevin Franco, the son of Regelio Franco, one of the missing Peruvians, agreed.

Kevin Franco (R), son of Rogelio Franco, one of the Peruvian crew member of the “Villa de Pitanxo” trawler that sank off the coast of Canada. (Photo by MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP)

“Keep looking for him, please,” he said.

“We want some information about him. Since the accident, we haven’t heard anything.”

Canadian authorities ended their search of the freezing waters at 2000 GMT on Wednesday after an “exhaustive” 36-hour operation in which they combed 900 nautical square miles.

Spain’s foreign ministry said the rescue effort was called off due to “the impossibility of maintaining the search under unfavourable weather conditions, with 10-metre waves, strong winds, temperatures close to zero degrees and very reduced visibility”.

A relative of Edemon Okutu, one of the Ghanaian crew member of the “Villa de Pitanxo” trawler. (Photo by MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP)

The three survivors — two Spaniards and a Ghanaian — and the nine bodies that were recovered are on their way to St. John’s, the capital of Newfoundland. A Spanish vessel and Portuguese boat are transporting them, it said.

They are expected to arrive at around 0930 GMT on Friday.

The last time Spain suffered a major fishing disaster was in July 1984 when a sardine boat called the Islamar III sank off the Canary Islands, claiming 26 lives.

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Spain’s capital ramps up security to host Nato summit

Madrid was turned into a high-security zone on Tuesday, with thousands of police guarding venues where over 40 world leaders will gather for a Nato summit focused on Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Spain's capital ramps up security to host Nato summit

Dubbed “Eirene”, after the ancient Greek Goddess of peace, the operation involves the biggest deployment of security forces in “Spain’s recent history”, according to the government.

A total of 10,000 agents backed by sniffer dogs and helicopters have been deployed to provide security for the 5,000 delegates attending the three-day summit, which gets underway on Tuesday evening.

Spanish Defence Minister Margarita Robles said fighter jets and anti-aircraft artillery devices had also been placed on high alert to protect Spanish airspace.

US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson are among the leaders expected at the gathering of Nato members and a dozen specially invited nations.

READ ALSO: Sánchez and Spanish King to meet with Biden before Madrid Nato summit

“Madrid and Spain will be the centre of the world,” Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares told private television Antena 3.

On Tuesday, police on foot and on horseback patrolled the streets of Madrid, which were monitored by police helicopters and drones.

The tightest security was around the IFEMA conference centre in the northeast of the capital, where the summit will take place.

Roads leading to the conference centre were cut off and the nearest metro stations was closed.

Access to the hotels where delegations are staying was also restricted.

To avoid gridlock in the city of over three million, local authorities strongly recommended that people work from home if possible.

Madrid’s Prado museum, which will host a gala dinner on Wednesday evening, will be closed to the public for two days.

The capital’s imposing central square, the Plaza Mayor, will be closed from Tuesday afternoon and used as parking space for the delegate’s vehicles.