Search for ship survivors suspended as Typhoon Haishen nears Japan

AFP , Saturday 5 Sep 2020

This image grab made from handout video footage shot and released by the Japan Coast Guard on September 4, 2020 shows a man being rescued from a life raft by coast guards, about 2 kilometres north-northwest of Kodakarajima island of Kagoshima prefecture. (AFP)

Japanese authorities on Saturday temporarily suspended their search for dozens of missing sailors from a cargo ship that sank in a typhoon, as waves and strong wind caused by an approaching storm hampered the operation.

The Japan coastguard found a second survivor on Friday after the Gulf Livestock 1, which was carrying 6,000 cows and had 43 crew on board, issued a distress call Wednesday near Amami Oshima island as Typhoon Maysak passed through the area.

Typhoon Haishen, a much stronger storm, is expected to affect Japan from late Saturday, with winds of up to 290 kilometres per hour (180 miles per hour), making it a "violent" storm -- the top level on the country's classification scale.

"We resumed our search operation this morning by dispatching an airplane, but it returned without any clues," a local coastguard official said.

"Now we plan to suspend our entire operation" until Haishen passes over the country, the official told AFP. The storm is scheduled to pass the country on Monday.

A first survivor was found on Wednesday evening, with the body of a second crew member recovered at sea Friday.

The Philippine foreign ministry said the two survivors -- both Filipino -- had been in contact with their respective families.

The crew was made up of 39 Filipinos, two New Zealanders and two Australians.

The boat, which had experienced engine problems before, had been travelling from Napier in New Zealand to the Chinese port of Tangshan.

Haishen was barrelling towards Okinawa in southern Japan Saturday morning and was expected to slightly shift course north towards western Kyushu, prompting the government to warn residents to prepare.

Satoshi Sugimoto, an official at the meteorological agency, said the latest typhoon could generate high waves as powerful as a tsunami.

"It's going to be the last chance to flee" when the agency formally issues a storm warning, Sugimoto told reporters.

Authorities on Minamidaitojima island instructed some 1,300 residents to evacuate as the storm was expected to hit the remote island, east of Okinawa.

"We urge all of our islanders to be on full alert as winds are getting stronger and expected to be violent," said Hidehito Iha, a local government official.

Footage showed troops escorting dozens of people at a heliport in Kagoshima, southern Kyushu, after they evacuated from another remote island by a military helicopter.

Toyota said it would suspend operations at three plants in Kyushu until Monday evening, while other companies, including Canon and Mitsubishi Electric, reportedly planned to take similar measures.

The storm grounded nearly 100 flights, public broadcaster NHK said, while some services of Shinkansen bullet trains were set to be suspended in western Japan on Monday.

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