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Greek cargo ship sinks off Norway; no trace of 20 aboard

norway map

February 8, 1997
Web posted at: 9:00 a.m. EST (1400 GMT)

STAVANGER, Norway (CNN) -- At least 20 people were feared dead Saturday after a Greek cargo ship sank off the southwestern coast of Norway during a heavy storm, Norwegian rescue officials said.

The ship, Leros Strength, went down about 30 miles (48 km) west of the Norwegian North Sea port of Stavanger. A rescue crew searched the rough seas by helicopter for about an hour but found no signs of survivors.

"There were bubbles on the surface and two empty lift rafts were floating in the sea. There was no trace of the ship or the crew," said Elvbjoerg Vaage, spokeswoman for the Stavanger rescue service.

A Polish crew of 20 people was believed to be on board, Vaage said.

It was not immediately clear what caused the ship to sink. But officials said they received a distress call from the skipper around 7:50 a.m. (0650 GMT) saying the boat was taking in water from a hole in the bow. Minutes later, all communication with the ship was lost.

Officials said at the time of the accident waves were 20 feet high (6 meters).

The ship, a 22,000-ton bulk carrier, was carrying iron ore from Murmansk, Russia, to Poland. The ship was registered in Cyprus but owned by the Greek shipping company Leros Management, officials said.

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