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16 crew missing after cargo ships collide

SIXTEEN crew members are missing after two cargo ships collided off the coast of a central Japanese island yesterday.

Japan's coast guard sent five ships and three helicopters to search for the crew ?? seven South Koreans and nine Indonesians ?? who were on board a South Korean-registered ship which collided with a Panama-registered vessel off Izu Oshima, a small island about 120 kilometers south of Tokyo.

"We are continuing search and rescue operations, but the 16 crew members remain missing," said coast guard spokesman Hidefumi Onoue. He said the 4,255-ton South Korean ship was also missing, and that it might have sunk.

"When the collision took place early in the morning, the visibility in the area was very poor due to the rain," he said.

More than 12 hours after the collision, the coast guard had only found two empty lifeboats and three life vests belonging to the South Korean ship.

"We are racing against time, but we are doing our utmost to rescue them," Onoue said.

All 19 crew on the 10,833-ton Panama-registered ship were safe, he said.


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