Three sailors have died and five others are missing after their Turkish merchant ship collided with a passenger ferry and sank in the Adriatic, Albanian port authorities said on Thursday.

The 3,300-ton Reina 1, sailing under a Maltese flag, sank immediately after the collision in international waters with the car ferry Ankara, said police spokeswoman Ornela Cako. The crash happened at about 1 a.m. (2300 GMT) Thursday some 20 miles (30 kilometres) from the Albanian port of Durres.

One body was taken aboard the ferry while two others have been spotted but not yet recovered due to rough seas, ports head Edmond Doraci told The Associated Press by telephone. Two sailors were rescued.

The Reina 1, loaded with grain in the Black Sea Russian port of Novorossiysk, had been headed to Bar, Montenegro, with a Turkish crew of 10, according to Ahmed Soyturk, 54, one of the survivors, speaking from the Durres hospital.

“It took only two minutes for the ship to go down,” Mr. Soyturk said.

The two survivors were in good health, according to hospital personnel in Durres.

No injuries were reported on the ferry, which had left Durres en route for the Italian port of Bari with about 200 passengers. The ferry has remained at the scene of the accident.

Police gave no information on the cause of the crash.

Police and military ships and helicopters have started a search and rescue operation.

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