Fri, Nov 03, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Swedish freighter capsizes, sinks in Baltic Sea


A Swedish freighter capsized and sank in a storm on the Baltic Sea, leaving the 14 crew members from the Philippines and Sweden fighting for their lives in 5m waves, rescue officials said.

Suffering from hypothermia and shocked, 13 people were hoisted from the stormy waters by helicopters in a high-risk rescue operation hampered by low visibility and powerful winds, the Swedish sea rescue service said.

The search continued for the missing crew member late on Wednesday.

The crew -- including 10 from the Philippines and four from Sweden -- jumped into the frigid waves as the 155m-long Finnbirch went down between the Swedish islands of Gotland and Oland, rescue spokesman Peter Lindquist said.

The roll-on, roll-off vessel was on its way from Helsinki, Finland, to Aarhus, Denmark, when it got caught up in a storm that lashed northern Europe on Wednesday with icy winds, snow and sleet, ship owner Lindholm Shipping said. The freighter was listing badly for hours before she sank.

"We can only speculate on the cause," Lindholm Shipping chief executive Jan Larsen told reporters. "We don't have enough information about what could have happened."

There was 260 tonnes of oil aboard the ship, but it was not immediately clear if any of it had leaked out, Swedish news agency TT reported.

Before the ship sank, rescuers refrained from trying to hoist the crew because of the extreme weather conditions.

The ship was built in 1978, had a dead weight of 8,500 tonnes and was operated by Helsinki-based Finnlines PLC, Larsen said. He did not know what cargo the ship was carrying.

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