U.S. Coast Guard pilots searched for a third day for the cargo ship El Faro and its 33 mostly American crew members after it went missing in the eye of Hurricane Joaquin as it passed over the Bahamas on Thursday. The company that owns the ship said a container that appears to belong to the vessel had been found as well.
The 790-foot (241-meter) El Faro was battered by 20- to 30-foot waves (up to 9-meter) as Joaquin was a Category 4 storm. However, there have been no reported deaths.
Three people died on Friday and Saturday in traffic incidents in South Carolina, and a auto passenger died in North Carolina on Thursday when a tree fell on Interstate 95, officials said.
A deluge roared over the East Coast on Saturday and Sunday, causing blackouts and evacuations and threatening all-time rainfall records in South Carolina and the southern Appalachians.
But the El Faro was caught in one of the fiercest storms that Mother Nature can conjure.
Capt. Stephen Russell, director of the Bahamas National Emergency Management Agency said the last storm to hover over the Bahamas for so long was Hurricane Wilma in 2005.
At least one person was killed on Long Island, Tribune242 reported, as lawmakers headed out on overflights to survey the damage.
“This is a lot of water… we are in dire need”, a Rum Key resident told local radio.
“Nearly two dozen homes in a settlement on Crooked Island were destroyed on Thursday, said Marvin Hanna, an Acklins representative”.
The Bahamas is home to 385,000 people and visited by far more tourists every year – about 1.3 million.
The states of North and South Carolina have been particularly hard hit, but the driving rain in recent days has spared nearly none of the US East Coast and forecasters say the worst is not over quite yet.
At 2100 GMT (6am Malaysian time), Joaquin was packing winds of 240km per hour.
Hurricane Joaquin (wa-KEEN) is battering the central Bahamas and moving northward.
Coast guard staff turned up “a number of different objects in the water” on Sunday via an aerial search, but were unable to confirm whether they were from the vessel.
The ship, named El Faro, was traveling to Jacksonville, Fla. from San Juan, Puerto Rico.
It was from there that it sent a satellite notification stating the ship had lost propulsion and had a 15-degree list.
Rescue workers, however, sounded an optimistic note Saturday as the storm began leaving the area and the Bahamas discontinued all hurricane watches and warnings for its islands.
By late Sunday morning, Joaquin’s center was located a few 210 miles (340 kilometers) southwest of Bermuda, with hurricane-force winds extending outward up to 70 miles (110 kilometers).
“Our hope is that we can really saturate that area better than yesterday”, said Schuhlein, a Coast Guard spokesman.
“A prolonged period of elevated water levels and large waves will affect the mid-Atlantic region, causing significant beach and dune erosion with moderate coastal flooding likely”, the National Weather Service warned.
Meanwhile, back in the Bahamas, there has been widespread flooding and power outages.
The potentially historic precipitation will last all 48 hours of the weekend, due to a 1-2 punch from Hurricane Joaquin over the open Atlantic and a second weather system: Joaquin drenches the Northeast and a separate low-pressure rainmaker dumps on the Southeast.