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40 crew members and 6,000 cows feared dead as rescue operation ends and second typhoon nears

The search for 40 missing crew members from the cargo ship that sunk near southwestern Japan has been called off.

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The search for 40 missing crew members from the cargo ship that sunk near southwestern Japan has been called off as Typhoon Haishen is approaching the region.

The termination of the search comes after three people have been recovered from the capsized vessel, which had a crew of 43 people and a load of nearly 6,000 live cattle before it sunk in the East China Sea on Wednesday after being caught in the violent conditions of Typhoon Maysak.

On Friday, Japanese authorities announced that its coast guard had rescued a third crew member from the Gulf Livestock 1. The 30-year-old Filipino seafarer was spotted waving for help alone in a life raft a mile away from Kodakarajima, a small island in the southern Japanese prefecture of Kagoshima, reports The Guardian.

According to the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the sailor is “conscious and able to walk,” reports Filipino news portal the Inquirier. Reports have identified him as Jay-nel Rosals, who served as the deckhand on the ship.

The rescue comes after another crew member was found on Friday, unconscious and floating near Japan’s Amami Oshima Island, which lies between Okinawa and Kyushu. The sailor was taken to a hospital, but died shortly thereafter. His identity and nationality remain unconfirmed.

The crew of the freighter included 39 seamen from the Philippines, two from Australia and two from New Zealand.

The Panamanian-flagged Gulf Livestock 1 had embarked from Napier in New Zealand on Aug. 14 and was bound for the Port of Jingtang in Tangshan, China, in a journey that was meant to last 17 days before it was tragically cut short by extreme weather conditions.

The first person rescued from the ship was 45-year-old chief officer Sareno Edvardo of the Philippines, who said that the ship’s engine was lost before the entire ship was capsized after being struck by a wave.

“When it was capsizing, an onboard announcement instructed us to wear a life jacket,” Edvardo later told the Japanese coast guard. “So I wore a life jacket and jumped into the sea.”

Sareno didn’t see any of his fellow crew members while he watched the ship sink prior to his rescue by Japan’s coast guard. Sareno was rescued after the coast guard spotted him adrift while wearing his life jacket.

Filipino seafarers are one of the most vulnerable workforces in the global economy, often suffering grave injuries, negligence, and wage theft in the often lawless open waters.

Family members of the missing Filipino seafarers are also grieving since learning about the sinking of the ship via social media. According to Liezyl Pitogo and Justine Marie Payas, whose husbands were crewmen on the ship, they have not been receiving any updates from authorities.

“It’s difficult for someone like me for a day to get by without hearing any news. I hope that [officials] could give us a little hope, your help,” Pitogo told ABS-CBN. Due to coronavirus lockdown measures in the Philippines, Pitogo is unable to reach officials, she said.

“I know that there is a pandemic, but if I were only near, I would be the one looking out for him,” she added. “We need to find them.”

Undated photo shows Andren Payas, far right, one of the Filipino crewmen of Gulf Livestock 1. | Photo: Justine Marie Payas

Some 500,000 Filipino seafarers are employed on vessels ranging from cruise ships to cargo liners and oil tankers, and their remittances are crucial for the economy of the Philippines.

Known for being cheerful, resourceful, and extremely hard-working – as well as less expensive than their European counterparts – Pinoy sailors make up a quarter of international seafarers but are often deprived of basic labor rights. Under Philippine law, they are unable to sue ship owners or managers in cases of severe negligence.

The Gulf Livestock 1 is a 456-foot (139 meter) vessel registered in Panama that was built as a livestock carrier in 2002 and is registered as being owned by the Amman-based Rahmeh Compania Naviera SA, according to public data. The ship’s manager is Hijazi & Ghosheh Co.

Animal rights organizers are also up in arms over the death of the nearly 6,000 cows, and they say that the sinking of the Gulf Livestock 1 is a clear example of the risks of transporting livestock by sea. The export of cattle and sheep generates major profits for meat and livestock producers in Australia and New Zealand.

Images of cattle floating in the area where the cargo ship sank have emerged amid the search-and-rescue attempts.

“This is a high-risk trade that puts the lives of animals at risk which is why the export of live animals must be banned,” Marianne Macdonald of New Zealand animal rights organization SAFE said in a statement Thursday.

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