A Spanish fishing boat carrying 24 people sank off hundreds of miles off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, early Tuesday, leaving at least four people dead and more than a dozen missing, according to Spanish maritime officials.
Three people were rescued by another fishing boat that was nearby when the 164-foot vessel, called the Villa de Pitanxo, sank, Spain’s maritime rescue service said in a statement.
The survivors had made it into a life raft, which also held the bodies of four members of the crew of the boat, which was based in Marín, a town in Galicia, in northwestern Spain.
The sinking was “a tragedy on a scale that we cannot remember,” María Ramallo, the mayor of Marín, told reporters.
Search and rescue crews had encountered rough water, reduced visibility and windy conditions at sea, Spanish officials said.
The boat was carrying 16 Spaniards, five Peruvians and three Ghanaians, according to the rescue service. The boat sank about 280 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, Spanish officials said on Twitter.
Two helicopters, a plane, and Spanish and Portuguese fishing boats were involved in the search, officials said.
The Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Halifax, Nova Scotia, said it received an emergency signal just after midnight on Tuesday from a fishing vessel east of St. John’s, the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador. A helicopter, another aircraft and several vessels were deployed.
“We remain distressed by the terrible news out of Canada about the sinking of the Villa de Pitanxo,” Alberto Núñez Feijóo, the regional president of Galicia, said on Twitter. “We are making available to the government and the shipowner all the help they need.”
Maica Larriba, a local official in Galicia, said on Tuesday that contact with the vessel was lost around 5 a.m. in Spain.
In a separate news conference, Isabel Rodríguez García, the minister for territorial policy and the spokeswoman of the Spanish government, confirmed the rescue of three crew members, but said she could not comment further.
“We are following with worry and preoccupation the rescue operations,” she said
The boat was built in 2004, according to Vesselfinder, a website for tracking marine traffic.
The ship’s owner is a fishing company, Grupo Nores, that specializes in fishing cod, dog fish and other species found in the North Atlantic, according to Spanish media reports.
In Marín and other nearby towns where crew members lived, relatives waited anxiously for more news about their loved ones on Tuesday.
Elisabeth Calderón, the aunt of one of the sailors, Jonathan Calderón, told local reporters that his ship had been at sea for over a month. Mr. Calderón has a wife and two adolescent children, his aunt said.
His wife was traveling when the shipwreck occurred, she said.
“Imagine when the family found out,” Ms. Calderón said.
Carlos Ordóñez, a sailor whose nephew was on board the ship, said the family was “completely overwhelmed.”
“We don’t know if they are alive or dead,” he said.