Rescuers retrieved Friday the bodies of two sailors declared missing off the coast of the northern port of Haifa after an Israeli freighter collided late Thursday with a Cypriot cruise ship, emergency services said.
The two sailors from Indonesia and Ukraine were aboard the cargo ship, the Shelly, which sank following the collision. The remaining 11 sailors jumped into the water, and were rescued within 15 minutes of the incident.
The two bodies were found inside the sunken ship, where the crewmen had apparently been trapped when their vessel was accidentally rammed by the Cypriot passenger ship, the Israel Police said in an official announcement.
The discovery followed an intensive search that included six Israeli navy boats, several aircraft and divers.
The two dead men were the ship's first mate and engineer, according to police.
None of the nearly 700 passengers and crew aboard the Cypriot ship were wounded in the incident. The 11 evacuated sailors refused to be taken to hospital.
As a result of the collision, an oil spill spread along the coast and the Health Ministry issued a warning to the public not to bathe at Zvulun beach.
The incident occurred close to 10 P.M., when the passenger ship Salamis Glory exited Haifa Port. Several minutes later, it struck the cargo vessel, which was anchored about 2.5 kilometers offshore. Soon after, the cargo ship began listing and sank.
The cause of the incident is not yet certain, although it is believed that the Cypriot passenger ship lost its steering. The cargo vessel had a crew of mostly Slovaks and Ukrainians. The passenger collected most of the sinking ship's crew, and the rest were evacuated by helicopter
The passengers of the Cypriot ship were all unharmed. The liner, Salamis Glory, returned to port in Haifa on Friday with light damage visible on its hull.
Police will be questioning its crew members and investigating what led to the accident, Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
George Michalides, spokesman of cruise company Salamis Lines, told Reuters that, "Passengers [on board the Salamis Glory] will be flown to Cyprus on Friday."
Magen David Adom emergency medical services announced a state of high alert in the Haifa area. The Rambam Medical Center in the city was also placed on high alert.
The Israel Navy deployed to the site of the accident to help in the search for the missing passengers. Israel Defense Forces helicopters were also dispatched to circle over the area of the collision.
Haifa Port Director Amos Uzani said Thursday night that a much greater disaster had been averted.
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