US helping rescue 24 fishing crew on grounded Pacific ship

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — A large fishing ship ran aground on a remote Pacific atoll early Thursday, and the U.S. Coast Guard said it was helping coordinate the rescue of its 24 crew members.

The 308-foot (94 meter) Chinese-flagged Ou Ya Leng No. 6 ran aground on uninhabited Taka Atoll in the Marshall Islands, Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew West said. He said a Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules plane has arrived in the area and two fishing vessels should arrive Friday to help rescue the crew.

West said the crew of the stricken ship tied a lifeboat to its side but remained aboard, and earlier reports they had left the ship and made it ashore on a lifeboat were incorrect. He said the Hercules was circling the area but there was nowhere suitable nearby for it to land.

West said the Coast Guard doesn’t yet know what caused the accident, the crew’s nationalities, or the status of the ship’s cargo and fuel. The fish carrier targets squid in the west and central Pacific Ocean, according to the Coast Guard.

Taka Atoll, also known as Toke Atoll, is part of the Ratak Chain and not far from Utirik Atoll, which is inhabited by about 400 people. The Marshall Islands is home to about 60,000 people and has close ties to the U.S. under a Compact of Free Association.

West said that decisions about how to deal with the stricken ship would likely be made by the Marshall Islands government as it had grounded in the nation’s territorial waters.

He said that communications with the region were difficult and that the situation remained fluid.


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