February 5. 2023. 6:53

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Spain in mourning after fishing tragedy off Newfoundland

A helicopter pilot involved in rescue and recovery efforts off Newfoundland, Canada, following the sinking of the Spanish fishing vessel Villa de Pitanxo. Photograph: EPA/Canadian armed forces

Rescue teams are still searching for survivors after a Spanish fishing vessel sank in Canadian waters on Tuesday, with many of the 24-strong crew feared dead.

On Wednesday 10 crew members had been confirmed dead, while 11 were still missing. Three people had been rescued.

The 50m Villa de Pitanxo ran into difficulty shortly after midnight on Tuesday about 400km from the coast of Newfoundland. Canadian rescue services started searching for the vessel, along with other fishing boats in the area.

A Spanish boat picked up the three survivors from a life raft. It also found the bodies of several crew members in another raft, while two further rafts were found empty. More bodies were recovered by Canadian and Portuguese vessels.

The Villa de Pitanxo had set out from the port of Marín, in the northwestern region of Galicia, and many of the crew were from the nearby area.

“For Marín,this is a very difficult day,” said the town’s mayor María Ramallo. “It is a tragedy of a scale that we cannot remember.”

Sixteen of those on board the Villa de Pitanxo were Spanish nationals, five were Peruvian and three Ghanaian. The South American and African crew members lived nearby and were part of the local community.

“The Peruvians and Ghanaians weren’t born Galicians but they are Galician by adoption because they had been living here a long time,” said Rosa Quintana, a member of the local government.

The survivors who were rescued were the boat’s captain and his nephew, named as Juan Padín Costa and Eduardo Rial Padín, and a Ghanaian named as Samuel Kwesi. All three were “resting and in shock” aboard the vessel which rescued them, according to the Spanish government’s representative in Galicia José Miñones.

Black day

“This is without doubt a black day for Galician fishing,” said Javier Touza, chairman of the association of local shipowners. “As long as the causes are not clarified we believe a sea swell could be to blame.”

On Wednesday the search for the missing crew members continued with a rescue aircraft, a helicopter and several boats belonging to the Canadian maritime rescue service combing the area with the help of Spanish and Portuguese fishing boats. However, high winds were impeding the search.

This is the latest in a litany of tragedies to affect the Galician fishing community and the worst in at least 38 years. In 2014 a Galician boat sank off the northern coast of Spain, killing eight, and in 2000 seven fishermen died and five went missing after a British-registered vessel from Marín sank off the Connemara coast.

In 1984 the fishing vessel Montrove disappeared with 17 crew while travelling between the Canary Islands and the north African coast.

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