Tropical Storm Kate halts salvage operation for El Faro cargo ship

Reuters News
|
Posted: Nov 09, 2015 4:43 PM

MIAMI (Reuters) - Salvage operations for the sunken cargo ship El Faro were suspended on Friday due to Tropical Storm Kate, which moved through the Bahamas with winds of 45 miles (75 km) per hour, U.S. authorities said.

The El Faro sank off the southern Bahamas in a hurricane last month with the loss of 33 mostly American crew. Its wreck was located on the seafloor in 15,000 feet (4,500 meters) of water a little over a week ago.

A U.S. Navy salvage tug, Apache, is searching for the ship's bridge and voyage data recorder, which became separated from the wreck, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said last week.

After weather in the Bahamas deteriorated on Monday morning, the NTSB tweeted salvage "operations on hold due to Tropical Storm Kate."

The data recorder, similar to an airplane's black box and affixed to the bridge, could provide NTSB investigators with vital clues as to what caused the worst cargo shipping disaster involving a U.S.-flagged vessel in more than three decades.

Due to poor communications, the NTSB said it was unclear whether the Apache had left the search area to seek refuge from the storm, and how soon it might resume its mission.

The center of Kate was forecast to leave the Bahamas on Monday night, the National Hurricane Center said.

The 790-foot (240-meter) El Faro sank on Oct. 1, on a regular weekly run between Florida and Puerto Rico, after the captain reported losing propulsion and taking on water.

The wreck is sitting in such deep water that it is beyond the reach of divers, so the salvage team is using an underwater sonar device to try to locate the bridge.

(Reporting by David Adams; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)