Search for seamen is called off

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The Independent Online
HOPES faded last night for 27 crew members of a ship that sank 240 miles off Land's End, writes David Connett. A massive air-sea search was called off after wrecked and empty life rafts were found.

Six RAF Nimrod marine patrol aircraft working in relays were stood down after taking part in a day-long search for survivors of the 26,000-ton, Maltese-registered Christinaki. 'It was one of the biggest-ever RAF rescue operations,' a spokesman said.

Two Sea King helicopters and a single Chinook as well as two surface vessels were also stood down. Hopes rose after life rafts and survival suits were spotted in the water. These were dashed when HMS Herald, a Royal Navy survey ship, followed up a sighting of objects in the water and discovered two of them were empty immersion suits.

Bad sea conditions continued to hamper rescuers throughout yesterday. Waves up to 50ft, torrential rain and low cloud reduced the chances of spotting survivors to almost zero.

The bulk carrier sent a distress signal at 4.30pm on Thursday but radar and radio contact was lost.