DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — An Emirati-flagged cargo ship sank Thursday off Iran in the Persian Gulf in poor weather, authorities said, with rescuers attempting to account for all of its 30 crew members.
Capt. Nizar Qaddoura, the operations manager of the Salem Al Makrani Cargo company, told The Associated Press that the Al Salmy 6 encountered rough and stormy weather, then capsized.
Rescuers had saved 16 crew members, the captain said. Another 11 had made it onto a life raft, while one person was saved by a nearby tanker. Two crew members were still in the water, he said.
The crew consisted of nationals from Sudan, India, Pakistan, Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia, Qaddoura said. The vessel had been on its way to Umm Qasr, Iraq, carrying cars and other cargo, he said.
The vessel was some 50 kilometers (30 miles) off the coast of Asaluyeh, the state-run IRNA news agency reported. IRNA said Iranian rescuers were trying to reach the vessel.
Images released by IRNA and Iranian state television matched with earlier images of the Al Salmy 6, a roll-on, roll-off vehicle carrier.
The U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, which patrols in the Mideast, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Persian Gulf remains a major waterway for trade, ranging from cargo ships that transship onto the rest of the world and energy shipments from the oil-rich Gulf Arab states. Vessels sinking in the waterway remain incredibly rare. However, dust storms and other poor weather have swept across the region as the seasons change from relatively cold winter months to the scorching days of summer.
Severe weather pounded the Persian Gulf starting on Wednesday, the state-run Iran Meteorological Organization reported, warning of powerful wind gusts that would disrupt maritime activities in the gulf and and damage offshore facilities through Saturday. Wind speeds are expected to exceed 70 kph (40 mph) in Iran's Bushehr province.
Associated Press writers Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran, and Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.
Isabel Debre, The Associated Press