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Coast Guard: El Faro cargo ship sank during hurricane

By
Andrew V. Pestano

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Oct. 5 (UPI) -- The U.S. Coast Guard announced Monday it believes the missing cargo ship El Faro, carrying 28 Americans and five Polish nationals, sank near the Bahamas as Hurricane Joaquin traveled through the area.

El Faro set out on a regular voyage from Jacksonville, Fla., to Puerto Rico on Tuesday. Contact with the ship was lost on Thursday as Hurricane Joaquin passed through the Bahamas with winds of about 130 mph.

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The Coast Guard, the Air Force and the Navy covered more than 70,000 square miles in the search for the 790-foot ship. The Coast Guard said it discovered a debris field of about 225 square miles, but there was no sign of El Faro, which is owned by TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico.

"We located the objects via aircraft," Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Gabe Somma told reporters.

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter and diver investigate a shattered lifeboat belonging to the El Faro.

On Sunday, the Coast Guard found a life ring belonging to El Faro.

Authorities have notified the families of the crew. The ship's last known location was about 35 nautical miles northeast of the Bahamas.

"With every passing hour, the search expands. When you're searching for something in the ocean, tracking the drift patterns and dealing with weather elements -- things are moving," Somma said, describing the difficulties of nautical searches.

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