4 dead, 7 missing after Dutch cargo ship sinks

The Netherlands

THE HAGUE, NetherlandsRescuers say four crew members have died and seven are still missing in the icy waters of the North Sea, after a cargo ship collided with another vessel and sank off the Dutch coast.

Coast Guard spokesman Marcel Oldenburger says four people were plucked dead from the sea and the search is continuing for those who are missing.

Thirteen sailors were rescued alive after the collision Wednesday night.

The 485-foot Baltic Ace collided with the 440-foot container ship Corvus J near busy shipping lanes some 40 miles off the coast of the southern Netherlands. The Baltic Ace, carrying a cargo of cars, had a crew of 24.

"We have found life rafts, and the people in them are being picked up by helicopters," coast guard spokesman Peter Verburg said earlier Wednesday.

By around 10 p.m., 11 crew members had been rescued by helicopters and two more by ships, the coast guard said in a statement. Rescuers were using infrared cameras to hunt for more survivors.

"We still hope to find them," Kees Brinkman, a spokesman for rescuers, told Dutch television nearly four hours after the collision. But, he added, "their chances of survival are shrinking" if they are in the water.

In a statement, the Dutch Defense Ministry said two navy patrol ships were aiding the search. "Helicopters are trying, in (strong wind) and high waves to bring the people to safety," the ministry said.

Verburg said the 12-man crew of the Corvus J was still on board the ship, which was helping in the rescue operation. Details of its cargo were not immediately available. "It is badly damaged, but not in danger of sinking," Verburg said of the Corvus J.

The coast guard spokesman said the cause of the collision was not known. "At the moment we are solely focused on getting the people to safety," he said.

Four of the survivors were being flown to a hospital in Rotterdam and seven to an airbase in Belgium.

The Baltic Ace was heading from the Belgian port of Zeebrugge to Kotka in Finland and the Corvus J was on its way from Grangemouth in Scotland to Antwerp, Belgium.