The fate of the crew of the China-bound cargo ship m.v. Bingo, which they abandoned before cyclone Phailin hit Odisha, remained uncertain even after 24 hours on Sunday evening.
The Coast Guard that has been carrying out search operations was informed by local fishermen that a lifeboat with the name of the cargo ship was sighted on a beach between Digha in West Bengal and Chandipur in Orissa.
This opens up the likelihood that the crew — 17 Chinese and a Burmese — are somewhere nearby.
Search operations will resume on Monday as it had turned dark by the time the Coast Guard was informed, an official of the Coast Guard Regional Headquarters in the city said.
MV Bingo bearing the flag of Panama and carrying iron ore was last located on Saturday, 22 nautical miles from the Sagar islands and 100 km from the Kolkata port.
The Coast Guard received a message at 3.45 p.m. on Saturday from the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, Chennai, that the crew had abandoned the ship. Rescue operations could not be carried out on Saturday night because of the cyclone, he said. Besides two surveillance aircraft and a vessel, the Coast Guard had pressed into service a hovercraft for rescue operations.
A rescue team of the Coast Guard that was engaged in aerial surveillance from a Dornier aircraft spotted the lifeboat around 3 p.m., about 45 nautical miles east of Sagar Islands, said R.P.S Kalhon, Chairman of the Kolkata Port Trust (KPT).