Rough seas hamper search for shipwreck survivors off Sintra coast

As air and sea searches continue for survivors of the fishing boat that turned turtle and sank in the early hours of Wednesday morning off the coast near Sintra, hopes are beginning to fade. Orange alerts are already in place due to rough seas in seven districts, including the Lisbon area that covers Sintra and Cascais.

Talking to SIC Notícias this morning, Cascais ports captain Mário Domingues said “expectations” that any of the five missing fishermen would be rescued alive “were not favourable”.

Throughout yesterday, the picturesque bay of Praia das Maçãs was splashed over news channels as debris from the “Santa Maria dos Anjos” washed up on the beach.

The alert came in the very early hours when 27-year-old crew member Henri Ferreira managed to swim to Praia das Maçãs and wake locals.

As Ferreira’s mother told newspapers later: “He was always a good swimmer.”

Ferreira was treated in hospital for hypothermia and later released, but his story has been unable to help civil protection services searching for the wreck as he said he was asleep when the boat got into trouble, and only woke up when it was in the process of sinking.

His extraordinary escape appears to have involved a swim of over a mile into shore – thus fears as to the fate of his shipmates are very real.

Searches today are concentrating on the stretch of coastline between Praia das Maçãs and Magoito, further north.

The Santa Maria dos Anjos was registered in Olhão but had been purchased recently by a ship master in Caxinas, Vila do Conde.

All the missing men are from the Vila do Conde area, save one: Ukrainian crewmember Valeriy Kosharnyy.

As Portuguese media follows the ongoing drama, reports are that this is the sixth large-scale wreck involving a Portuguese fishing boat in the last two years.

One of the biggest problems for rescue services is the fact that very few crewmembers ever wear their regulation life vests.

According to Ferreira, he was not wearing one – neither were any of his crewmates.

The “Santa Maria dos Anjos” was understood to be fishing for sole (linguado).

It had left Peniche at 9.30pm on Tuesday.

By NATASHA DONN [email protected]