The United Nations maritime task force serving off the Lebanese coast is taking part in a search-and-rescue operation today to try to save the lives of the crew of a cargo ship that sank last night in rough seas.
Members of the maritime task force of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) had rescued at least 35 survivors and recovered the bodies of eight others by 5 p.m. local time today, according to a press release issued by the peacekeeping operation. Three more people have been rescued by other ships in the area.
The cargo ship, known as Danny F II and carrying livestock, sent out a distress signal last night after it capsized about 10 nautical miles from the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. Media reports say the ship had been sailing from Uruguay to Syria.
UNIFIL dispatched three ships – the frigate Zeffiro, the mine hunter Laboe and the supply ship Mosel – to the scene last night and the mission said the rescue operation is ongoing, but is being hampered by difficult weather conditions.
Survivors of the sinking are being provided with immediate medical care aboard the UNIFIL ships before they are transported ashore in Lebanon.
“This is a very tragic incident and our UNIFIL maritime task force peacekeepers are doing their utmost to save the lives of the victims,” said Major-General Claudio Graziano, the Force Commander of the mission. “We hope that our joint efforts with the Lebanese navy will help minimize the number of casualties.”
The maritime fleet has been deployed since 2006 in the wake of that year’s war between Israel and Hizbollah, and is tasked with helping the navy secure its territorial waters and prevent the unauthorized entry of arms or related material by sea into Lebanon.
Last week the task force rescued a crew member from a merchant ship that had sunk off the southern Lebanese coast and in 2008 the force rescued 14 people from a disabled vessel.