Peruvian coast: Container ships collide off, 22 crew members rescued

A Panamanian container ship was split in half Friday after it collided in heavy fog with a cargo vessel from Cyprus near the Peruvian port of Callao, officials said. Twenty-two crew members from the Panamanian ship were rescued, said Roberto Colombo, general manager of ENAPU, Peru's national ports agency. He said a U.S. vessel, the Alice, also was struck but was not damaged.

The broadcaster Radioprogramas said two crew members were taken to a local hospital, apparently with non-life threatening injuries.

Local television broadcast images of the 150-meter (495-foot) Panamanian vessel Twin Star with its stern and bow ends jutting sharply from the water. An expanding fuel slick was visible, emerging from the sinking ship. The Panamanian vessel did not carry any potentially hazardous cargo, Colombo told reporters, "so the problem of contamination is limited to capacity of the ship's fuel tanks." Port officials said the accident occurred around 7:17 a.m. local time (12:17 GMT) as the ships passed each other and that heavy fog appeared to have contributed to the incident.

The Twin Star apparently was pulling out of the port, which serves Lima, the capital, when it collided with the Cypriot ship Pintayl, Callao Mayor Alex Kouri told reporters.

Vice Adm. Frank Boyle, president of the Calloa Port Authority, said the last time there had been an accident of this magnitude in the port area was in 1988 when the Peruvian submarine Pacocha, a 312-foot former U.S. Navy attack submarine, was accidentally rammed by a 412-ton Japanese fishing boat three miles out.

A lieutenant commander and two sailors died aboard the submerged submarine. But 22 crewmen managed to seal themselves inside a forward torpedo room. With air oxygen running out and deadly carbon monoxide building up, they used a pressurized escape hatch to make a desperate swim to the surface. All but one survived.


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