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EMERGENCY sea rescue services in Durban and East London scrambled yesterday after reports of a mystery vessel in distress off the Wild Coast.
But nothing was found of the “large ship” that fired a red distress flare in a three-hour search last night. Helicopters will sweep the area again today.
The Eastern Cape coast has some of the rockiest coastal features in Southern Africa, with rocky bays and submerged rocks. It was on this coast that the worst sea disaster in South Africa’s recent history took place, with the sinking of the MVS Oceanos, an ocean liner, in 1991. The South African Navy and the SAAF succeeded in rescuing all 571 people on board.
The Mozambican authorities have found in the southern province of Inhambane, about 20 miles off the coast of Vilankulo, a small boat laden with 13 containers that the authorities suspect to be radioactive waste. According to the state Radio Mozambique, the authorities said that the barge, baptized "Anchorage", with no crew aboard, may have been abandoned in the Mozambican waters by a mother ship, probably from Singapore. The maritime authorities are currently waiting for the arrival of a tugboat to move the barge with the suspected radioactive material ashore, while it is being be strictly monitored by the Mozambican Navy. A high ranking official from the Inhambane government said that the 13 containers might be loaded with about 300 tons of what is supposed be radioactive waste.
A witness claimed to see the boat floating close to a place called the "hole in the wall". Rescue teams were sent out, two South African Air Force helicopters were sent out as well as sea rescue but no boats were found.
Apart from the witness that saw the ship other people saw it as well. The rescue efforts were all in vain and the NSRI wondered why they could not communicate with the ship by radio. The sea was rough and there were heavy winds that also made the search more dangerous.
As a result, the search was called off. Nonetheless, it was clear the lack of confirmation from the missing vessel was less than satisfactory to the NSRI. He said:
The only thing that puzzles us is that why did they not call us on the radio? Maybe they lost radio communications?
It might have been a fishing trawler. We think the vessel might have lost its engines, got its engines, and then went to deep sea.