On Sunday, February 19th, a 98-ton Taiwanese-flagged longliner named Lien Sheng Fa lost radio contact with Taipei while cruising in international waters in the Indian Ocean, 215 nautical miles from Rodrigues Island – a dependency of Mauritius Island.
At the time, intense tropical cyclone Freddy was approaching, with gusts estimated at 280 km/h near its eye. The Lien Sheng Fa was carrying 16 crew members, including a Taiwanese captain and 15 Indonesians, on a fishing campaign in the north of the Indian Ocean.
Late in the evening of Thursday, February 23rd, Taiwanese authorities contacted the National Coast Guard (NCG) in Mauritius requesting a search and rescue operation for the missing vessel. The NCG sent the CGS Barracuda, an offshore patrol boat, and the Dornier, an aircraft, to search for any survivors. Calls were also made to vessels in the area to report any floating objects. French authorities in Réunion Island were asked for assistance.
The overturned hull of the Lien Sheng Fa was eventually found on Friday, February 24th, by the Star Venture, a cargo vessel, 115 nautical miles from the island, drifting in Mauritius’ territorial waters. Two days later, the CGS Barracuda came across the wreck at 125 nautical miles from the island. Divers confirmed the identity of the vessel, inspected the cabins, and found no one on board. The holds were inaccessible as they were closed, and the engine room was flooded. The few life jackets aboard were in a bad state, and no life rafts were found. The Dornier flew over the area, but no survivors were found.
In addition to the Lien Sheng Fa, the Taiwanese authorities also requested assistance to locate the 40-ton trawler Sheng Feng No. 128, which disappeared on Saturday, February 18th, with a Taiwanese captain and five Indonesians onboard, at 414 nautical miles northwest of the island of Malakal, in the Palau Archipelago.
The US Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center described the intense tropical cyclone Freddy as an unusually long-lived cyclone born off the coast of northwestern Australia, which made its way all the way to Africa, claiming several lives when it made landfall in Madagascar before lashing back on the island after hitting Africa.
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