Rescuers Search Icy Waters 11 Presumed Dead After Ships Collide in North Sea

The crew of a car carrier was forced to abandon ship in the icy waters of the North Sea after colliding with a container ship Wednesday evening off the Dutch coast. Rescue workers focused on recovery efforts Thursday morning, with six people still missing and five more already confirmed dead.

The  Baltic Ace  sank in the North Sea Wednesday night.

The Baltic Ace sank in the North Sea Wednesday night.

Two ships collided in the North Sea off the Dutch coast Wednesday evening, leaving five crew members dead and another six missing, and one of the ships at the bottom of the sea.

A car carrier named the Baltic Ace and the container ship Corvus J crashed about 65 kilometers (40 miles) from the port of Rotterdam. The cause of the accident remains unknown, but gale-force winds and rain were predicted for the area Wednesday evening.

A rescue effort was called off around 2 a.m. Thursday, and rescue workers focused on recovery when they started up again after daybreak.

"Given the water temperature and the amount of time that's passed, we don't have any hope for more survivors," a spokesman from the Dutch Coast Guard said Thursday morning.

After the 148-meter (485-foot) Baltic Ace, sailing under the flag of the Bahamas, collided with the 134-meter container ship Corvus J on Wednesday, its 24 crew members were forced to quickly abandon ship.

The names of the crew members, who came from Bulgaria, Poland, Ukraine, and the Philippines, have not been released.

Driving Snow and High Waves

On Wednesday night, a Belgian helicopter and a Dutch frigate took part in the rescue effort, battling driving snow, high waves and darkness as they searched for the missing crew of the Baltic Ace. Eleven crew members were picked up from life boats by the helicopter, and others were rescued by the Corvus J.

The Dutch Coast Guard used infrared devices to scan the dark waters late into the night.

The Baltic Ace was carrying Japanese cars from Zeebrugge, Belgium to Kotka, Finland. The ship sank within 15 minutes and is now completely submerged.

Cargo on board the Corvus J was damaged, but the container ship was not in danger of sinking, and its 12 crew members were able to remain on board and to help with the rescue effort.

The Corvus J, registered in Cyprus, was traveling from Grangemouth, Scotland to Antwerp, Belgium, and the boat continued on its way to Antwerp on Thursday for repairs.

In December 2002, a ship carrying some 3,000 cars sank in the English Channel. The cleanup costs approached $50 million.

Ship traffic in and out of Rotterdam, the biggest port in Europe, was not affected by the collision Thursday.

-- zft with wires.


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