Queen Hind: Rescuers race to save 14,000 sheep on capsized cargo ship

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Media caption,

Many sheep drowned when the ship tipped over

Rescuers are scrambling to save thousands of sheep trapped after a large cargo ship overturned in the Black Sea off the coast of Romania.

The Queen Hind capsized on Sunday after leaving the port of Midia, near the south-eastern city of Constanta.

It was carrying more than 14,000 sheep. All crew members were rescued.

An operation involving the military, police, firefighters, divers and the Romanian coastguard resumed on Monday morning after an overnight pause.

As many as six vessels in the area initially intervened to help the emergency services, Romanian media reported.

At least 32 sheep found swimming near the Palau-flagged ship were rescued on Sunday, but many are believed to have drowned - with thousands remaining trapped.

Image source, ISU Constanta
Image caption,
A rescue operation, supported by the military, police and divers, was launched on Sunday

"We have already saved a small number. They were swimming in the sea," Ana-Maria Stoica, spokeswoman for the emergency services in Constanta, told the BBC.

The crew members on board - some 20 Syrian nationals - were rescued from the vessel almost immediately. One crew member was taken to hospital with hypothermia.

Media caption,

Watch emergency services bringing sheep ashore after saving them from the capsized ship

"He fell into the sea but was very quickly rescued," Ms Stoica said, adding that the rest of the crew were "all safe here in the harbour".

It is not yet known what caused the ship, which was bound for Saudi Arabia, to capsize. An investigation will be carried out when the operation to rescue any surviving sheep and salvage the vessel is concluded, authorities say.

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The ship, which left Midia at about 12:00 local time (10:00 GMT), was heading to the Saudi port of Jeddah with its cargo.

Built in 1980, the vessel measures 85m (278ft) and has a gross tonnage of 3,785, according to the Marine Traffic website.

Image source, ISU Constanta
Image caption,
It is unclear what caused the ship to list so badly
Image source, ISU Constanta
Image caption,
A small number of sheep have been rescued from the capsized ship
Image source, ISU Constanta
Image caption,
Police, firefighters and the Romanian navy were involved in the operation to save the sheep

It had reportedly arrived at the port of Midia on 23 November from the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

Pictures showed the upended vessel on its side a few hundred metres from the port, about 20km (12 miles) north of Constanta.

The port is primarily used for the supply of crude oil for nearby industrial and petrochemical facilities. But it is also used by cargo ships carrying live animals from Romania, one of the European Union's biggest exporters of livestock.

Animal rights campaigners and Romania's main livestock breeder and exporter association, Acebop, called for an urgent investigation into the overturning of Queen Hind.

"Our association is shocked by the disaster," Acebop president Mary Pana told AFP news agency. "If we cannot protect livestock during long-distance transports, we should outright ban them."

Another shipping incident involving a large cargo ship loaded with livestock occurred in the Black Sea off Turkey's coast in 2017.

In that case, the Togo-flagged vessel collided with a Russian naval spy ship, which sank as a result.