Japanese rescuers were searching Thursday for a livestock ship with 42 crew members on board that a survivor said sank during rough weather a day earlier off a southern Japanese island, the coast guard said. The Filipino crew member was rescued late Wednesday after Japanese navy P-3C surveillance aircraft spotted him wearing a life vest and waving while bobbing in the water.
Dramatic images released by the coast guard showed the man floating in the darkness in an orange life jacket and being pulled onto a rescue boat with a rope.
The man, who is in good health, told rescuers the ship capsized before sinking, said spokesman Yuichiro Higashi at the Japanese coast guard's regional headquarters conducting the search. The AFP reported the survivor was the ship's 45-year-old chief officer.
There were no details on when and where the ship sank, but the man said he had not seen other crew members while waiting to be rescued, the AFP reported.
The 11,947-ton Gulf Livestock 1 ship was carrying 5,800 cows west of the western coast of Amami Oshima in the East China Sea when it sent a distress call early Wednesday. The cause of the distress call was not immediately known, but the weather was rough in the area due to Typhoon Maysak.
The typhoon has since passed the area and the weather during the ongoing search is fine, Higashi said.
The ship's other crew include 38 from the Philippines, two from New Zealand and another two from Australia.
Three coast guard vessels, five planes and specially trained divers are involved in the search-and-rescue operation.
Japan is currently in its annual typhoon season, and a second massive storm is on course to arrive in the same area around Sunday, according to local forecasters, potentially limiting the time the coast guard can continue to search.
The ship, owned by Gulf Navigation Holding based in the United Arab Emirates, left the port of Napier in northeastern New Zealand in mid-August and was on its way to the port of Tangshan on China's eastern coast.
Australasian Global Exports said it was in contact with the families of some of the crew, as well as with local authorities, but offered no further details.
"Our thoughts and prayers are also with the ship's officers, crew and other personnel and their families," it added.
The incident also drew the ire of animal rights activists.
"This is a real crisis, and our thoughts are with the families of the 43 crew who are missing with the ship. But questions remain, including why this trade is allowed to continue," Marianne Macdonald of the animal rights group SAFE said, according to Reuters. "These cows should never have been at sea."
In 2019, New Zealand launched a review after thousands of animals being exported from New Zealand and Australia died while in transit, the news agency reported.
With additional reporting from the AFP.