Eleven die after ships collide in North Sea

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Rescuers have given up hope of finding any more survivors from a cargo ship that sank in the bitterly cold North Sea off the Dutch coast, saying they are searching for the bodies of six crewmen still missing, bringing the presumed death toll to 11.

Search planes, helicopters and ships resumed the search that was called off in the early hours yesterday, but icy conditions made survival unlikely.

“Given the water temperature and the amount of time that’s passed, we don’t have any hope for more survivors,” Peter Westenburg, of the Dutch Coast Guard, said.

Four bodies were found on Wednesday night and 13 survivors were rescued. A fifth body was found and retrieved yesterday by a Belgian helicopter.

The 148-metre (485ft) Baltic Ace sank after colliding with the container ship Corvus J, which was on its way to Antwerp from Grangemouth, in Scotland. The cause of the collision, in darkness near busy shipping lanes some 65 kilometres (40 miles) off the coast of the southern Netherlands, is not known but the Baltic Ace, carrying a cargo of cars, sank quickly as its crew of 24 tried to abandon ship.

The Dutch waterways agency said it has sent two vessels to help guide traffic and to lay buoys around the area of the sunken wreck. One is using sonar equipment to establish exactly how deep and where it lies on the seabed.

Dutch police have identified the five victims whose bodies have been found as two Poles, aged 47 and 50; two Filipinos aged 30 and 51; and a 47-year-old Ukrainian.

Four of the survivors were flown to a hospital in Rotterdam and seven to a military hospital in Belgium. All are expected to recover.