US Coast Guard calls off search for missing US ship

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Deborah Dyer (right) is hugged by Judy Marzolf (right) on 6 October 2015. Ms Dyer's nephew Dylan Melkin is one of the Marine Maritime Academy graduates who was on the ship.Image source, AP
Image caption,
With 33 people feared to be dead, investigators hope that the ship's data recorder will offer answers

The US Coast Guard has suspended its search for the El Faro, which sank near the Bahamas with 33 people on board.

The 735ft (224m) cargo vessel and its crew have been missing since issuing a distress call on Thursday.

Search planes have found debris including life jackets, containers and oil in the water, but only one body has been recovered.

It is not clear why the captain decided to lead the ship into waters near Hurricane Joaquin.

"We were very saddened to learn that no survivors have been found," said Bella Dinh-Zarr, vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.

The search officially ended on Wednesday evening at sunset.

"They did all they could in this search effort... our crews and aircrafts flew repeatedly into that storm," Coast Guard Captain Mark Fedor said on Wednesday.

Image source, AP
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All 33 crew members on the ship are feared to be dead
Image source, Reuters
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The 224-metre vessel was last heard from on Thursday of last week

An empty, heavily damaged life boat was also found.

The coast guard said it searched 70,000 sq nautical miles attempting to find the crew of 28 Americans and five Poles.

The ship, which was travelling from Florida to Puerto Rico, was taking on water before it sank according to the distress call.

Its owners, Tote Maritime, say the ship lost power after its engines broke down.

Image source, REUTERS/NOAA
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Hurricane Joaquin from space

Tote Maritime, said two vessels it dispatched to the scene had found a container "which appears to be from the El Faro".

In a statement it said the crew were "equipped to handle situations such as changing weather."

Joaquin brought heavy rains to the Bahamas, damaging a number of houses.