(Vatican Radio) A cargo ship with 12 people on board has gone down in heavy seas in the Kerch Strait off the Russian Black Sea coast towards the Crimean Peninsula. Rescue crews reached the scene early on Wednesday and officials said one person was pulled to safety. Two bodies were found and nine crew were missing.
Listen to the report by Stefan Bos:
Hundreds of people were reportedly searching by sea and by air for survivors in the Kerch Strait. Russia's marine agency said the 3,500-tonne Geroi Arsenala split in two and sank in this area at about 03:40 in the morning local time.
Yet high winds have reportedly hampered the search for survivors.
The ship went down around 19 nautical miles some 35 kilometers south of the Taman Peninsula, explained Vladimir Ivanov, an official of the Ministry of Emergency Measures for Crimea.
'HERO OF ARSENAL'
He said the Panama-registered Geroi Arsenala or 'Hero of Arsenal' was on its way from the Russian port of Azov to Turkey with a cargo of grain. "There were 12 crew members on the board. Immediately, the centre for managing crisis situations established the interdepartmental cooperation with the Marine Rescue Coordination Center. All vessels that were in the water area of the Black Sea Coast were sent to help those in distress."
He added that a military helicopter and divers with deep water equipment are also involved in the search. Officials said that nine of those on board were Ukrainian, two were Russians and one was Georgian.
Oil from the ship has reportedly spilt into the sea.
Russian emergency ministry officials said initially that three crew members were saved but later it emerged that only one had been pulled from the water.
Four others were spotted in life jackets but rescuers were unable to find them in the high waves and strong winds. Russia is currently building a bridge over the Kerch Strait to Crimea, which it annexed from Ukraine in 2014.