MARYSTOWN, N.L. — A cargo ship carrying a load of road salt to the French islands of St-Pierre-Miquelon capsized and sank off Newfoundland on Tuesday afternoon, triggering a search for four crew members.
The 37-metre Cap Blanc went down 16 kilometres south of Marystown, N.L., at about 1:30 p.m. AT. Bruno Arantzabe, an official at the St-Pierre Port Authority, said the ship left Argentia, N.L., in the middle of the night for a 12-hour voyage home.
It later sank in about 130 metres of water, but it remains unclear what caused the ship to capsize.
Arantzabe said everyone in the French-owned islands was concerned for the safety of the four men.
“They are all friends. It is a small community here,” he said by phone from St-Pierre.
“We are only 5,000 inhabitants. It is a big disaster for us.”
The ship, owned by Alliances SP, is a small general cargo vessel that makes regular runs between the tiny islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Newfoundland.
Mike Bonin, another search-and-rescue spokesman, said an empty lifeboat was found in the search area off Marystown.
Two Cormorant helicopters from Gander, N.L., a Hercules aircraft from Greenwood, N.S., and two coast guard vessels and an RCMP patrol boat were involved in the search.
The crew aboard the coast guard icebreaker George R. Pearkes took over search duties as darkness fell.
Another coast guard vessel, the W. Jackman, was to join the search Wednesday morning, according to the rescue co-ordination centre in Halifax.
The RCMP was also expected to dispatch the Murray, an RCMP patrol vessel, and the Defence Department was to send a Cormorant helicopter from Gander.
Bonin said winds in the area at the time the vessel capsized were about 50 kilometres per hour.
Arantzabe said there was no radio contact between the ship’s crew and the port before the ship ran into trouble.