Tue, Feb 15, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Mystery remains could be a clue to freighter's fate

By Cody Yiu  /  STAFF REPORTER

What appeared to be the remains of three life-support outfits were spotted at sea yesterday afternoon off the northeastern coast of Taiwan by air rescue helicopters, as the intensive search for the missing freighter Juitai 8 continued.

According to an official with the Disaster Prevention and Rescue Operations Center under the National Fire Agency, three life-support outfits, which might be either rubber life boats or life rafts, were found at 2:30pm yesterday approximately 30 nautical miles off Suao port in northeastern Taiwan.

However, no individuals were sighted in the proximity of the remains.

CONFIRMATION

"We are still unsure if those were life boats or life rafts, or whether they belonged to Juitai 8. The air rescue squad is working at the site, attempting to confirm the details," Hsu Lan-hsiang (許嵐翔), a media liasion official at the Coast Guard Administration (CGA), said yesterday.

Yesterday morning, a ship off the coast of Suao reported having found a life boat.

Following the tip, air rescue teams were sent out to the site.

On Sunday evening, rescue teams found a yellow rubber life boat off the coast of Ilan, which was confirmed to have belonged to Juitai 8 by the marine transportation company that owned the freighter.

MISSING

On Feb. 10, Juitai 8, a Kaohsiung-registered gravel freighter, departed from Hualien Harbor for Ishigaki Island in Japan's Okinawa Prefecture.

The ship had 18 crew members on board; 12 of whom were Taiwanese, and two Burmese and four Indonesians.

The 5,000-tonne freighter's communications were cut off after only one location report that night.

According to the CGA's speculation, the freighter and all of its crew members might have sunk in rough seas. The Global Positioning System on board did not send out any distress signals prior to ceasing its transmissions.

Although the crucial 72-hour initial period of the rescue operation had passed, authorities said they had not yet given up the hope of discovering survivors.

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