‘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 evacuates diplomats and Spanish nationals from Ukraine

Spain said Friday it had evacuated about 100 of its nationals from Ukraine, including its ambassador to the country and remaining diplomatic staff due to Russia's military invasion.

Spain evacuates diplomats and Spanish nationals from Ukraine

“The last remaining staff members of the Spanish embassy are leaving” Kyiv including the ambassador, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares told private television Antena 3.

They were evacuated along with “a convoy of around 100 Spanish nationals, who had to leave Kyiv due to the deterioration of security conditions”, he added.

With this operation there are only about 100 Spanish nationals left in Ukraine. They have said they do not wish to leave the country, according to Spain’s foreign ministry.

Russian forces were approaching Kyiv from the north and northeast, Ukraine’s army said Friday, with rising fears the capital could fall on the
second day of Moscow’s offensive.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “will not be without consequences”, Albares said as he reiterated Spain’s support for Kyiv.

He added it was “clear” that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to alter Europe’s “respect for the integrity of borders” but “we are going to do everything in our power to defend this order”.