Ships sink and ground, six missing

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A Norwegian cargo ship sank during a severe storm that hit the coasts of western Sweden and southern Norway Thursday night. Six crew members are missing and a massive search and rescue operation was called off Saturday when those leading it determined there was no hope of finding any survivors. Another vessel, meanwhile, grounded in the storm off Telemark and set off a major oil spill.

Six emergency vessels, three helicopters and a surveillance plane searched the rough waters of the Koster Fjord northwest of the Svangen lighthouse. Cecilia Wegnelius of the Swedish rescue service Sjörädningscentralen confirmed that the vessel’s six crew members, four Russians and two Ukrainians, were missing.

Another spokesman told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Friday morning that “the waters aren’t especially cold,” so there was still hope of finding crew members from the vessel, the 70-meter-long Langeland , alive. By Saturday afternoon, however, hopes faded that any of the six had survived.

Special equipment localized the sunken vessel at a depth of about 100 meters. The search was called off after police said they were “99.9 percent sure” that the crew went down with the ship.

Two 10-person lifeboats were found, but both were empty.

The vessel was on its way from Karlshavn in Sweden to Moss in Norway with a load of rock and gravel. Its last known position was about one-and-a-half nautical miles northwest of Svangen.

The first alarm was registered at 5:55am and at 6am the captain radioed that the vessel was going down. Lifevests and some wreckage, including a refrigerator, were also found floating on the water. The vessel was owned by Myklebusthaug Rederi of Hordaland, western Norway.

Grounding unleashes oil spill
The entire coastal area north to Oslo was battered during the night by a storm that also uprooted trees, flooded some neighbourhoods and sent boats fleeing into harbors to seek shelter.

Another cargo ship, the Panama-registered Full City , ran aground in heavy seas and high winds outside Langesund on the southern coast of Telemark.It threatened to create an environmental nightmarein the popular nearby coastal recreational area as it continued to leak oil on Friday.

Police said the vessel had been waiting to take on a cargo of saltpeter at Herøya. Sixteen of the vessel’s 23 crew members were rescued off the vessel while those remaining on board tried to contain the oil spill.