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42 crew and nearly 6,000 cattle feared dead after huge cargo ship sinks in typhoon near Japan

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

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A cargo ship with 43 crewmembers and a haul of nearly 6,000 cattle capsized off in the East China Sea after a typhoon disabled one of its engines, potentially wiping out all but one crew member.

Sareno Edvarodo, a 45-year-old chief officer from the Philippines, was rescued by the Japanese coast guard on Wednesday night amid violent and stormy conditions in the East China Sea.

The ship 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, reports Reuters.

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

On Wednesday, the Gulf Livestock 1 sent out distress calls from the west of Amami Oshima island in southwestern Japan after being caught in the heavy seas and vicious winds of Typhoon Maysak.

According to Sareno, the ship’s engine was lost before the entire ship capsized after being stuck by a wave. At that point, crew members were instructed to put on lifejackets before the chief officer plunged into the water.

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

While a rubber boat was also spotted late Wednesday in the area where the ship capsized, the Japanese coast guard hasn’t confirmed if it was linked to the ship.

Three coast guard vessels, five planes and specially-trained fivers are continuing the search-and-rescue efforts.

The rescue efforts come as another typhoon continues to build strength in the region. Typhoon Haishen is building in the waters south of Japan and is likely to slam into the Korean coast on Sunday or Monday.

The Gulf Livestock 1 is a 450-foot (139 meter) Panamanian-flagged vessel that was built 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. Neither the company nor the manager have responded to media inquiries.

New Zealand’s foreign ministry is providing consular assistance to the families of the two New Zealanders aboard.

The government of the Philippines is also coordinating the ongoing search for the remaining 38 lost crew members with Japan.

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.

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 and offer unparalleled power to global trade, 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.

Animal rights organizers are also up in arms over what they say is a clear example of the risks of the global trade in live animals.

“These cows should never have been at sea,”  Marianne Macdonald of New Zealand animal rights organization SAFE told Reuters.

“This is a real crisis, and our thoughts are with the families of the 43 crew who are missing with the ship,” she added. “But questions remain, including why this trade is allowed to continue.””

New Zealand launched a review last year of its growing live export trade, which was valued at around USD $37 million in 2019, after thousands of animals exported from New Zealand and Australia died while in transit.

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