State briefs for January 3

US helps rescue 24 fishing crew on remote Pacific atoll

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — The U.S. Coast Guard said Wednesday that a large fishing boat ran aground on a remote Pacific atoll and it was trying to rescue the 24 crew members who made it to shore in a lifeboat.

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The Coast Guard said the 308-foot Chinese-flagged vessel Ou Ya Leng No. 6 reportedly grounded Wednesday on uninhabited Taka Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

The Coast Guard said it was sending the crew of an HC-130 Hercules plane and was working with three nearby fishing boats and the government of the Marshall Islands. The Coast Guard didn’t yet know what caused the accident, the crew’s nationalities or the status of the boat’s cargo and fuel.

Brendon Ritz, from the Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Honolulu, said the first concern is the crew’s safety.

1 missing, 16 rescued from ship that caught fire in Pacific

HONOLULU — One crewmember who abandoned a vessel that caught fire in the Pacific Ocean while carrying cars from Japan to Hawaii remained missing Wednesday afternoon after 16 were rescued. Four other crewmembers were listed as unresponsive after rescue ships spotted them and lowered life rings but got no reply.

The Sincerity Ace, a 650-foot car carrier, had 21 crew members aboard when the fire started Monday while traveling to Hawaii from Japan.

The U.S. Coast Guard coordinated with merchant ships on the rescue effort as the Sincerity Ace was 2,071 miles northwest of Honolulu.

The ships were able to rescue 16 of the crew members. The ships also threw down life rings attached to lines to four crewmembers who didn’t pull themselves up to safety.

“If the person in the water can’t grab onto something there’s not much these … vessels can do for them,” said Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew West. The lowest deck on some of the massive vessels is 25 feet to the water, he explained.

The four were not in life rafts, West said.

Japanese shipping company Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd. owns the Panamanian-flagged vessel. The vessel was still on fire Wednesday, said company spokesman Darrell Wilson in a statement.

Coast Guard and U.S. Navy aircraft are searching a 6,711-mile area for the missing crew member, but they don’t have any ability to land, West said. The nearest Coast Guard ships are days away, he said. It’s not clear what plans are in place to retrieve the four who were unresponsive.

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The company, based in Imabari, Japan, dispatched commercial tugs to the vessel, which are estimated to be four to five days away, Wilson said.

The cause of the fire is still unknown.

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