Families of crew members of a cargo ship that had gone missing off Japan in September, included 39 Filipinos, are to receive a donation from Pope Francis, said the Vatican on Wednesday. The carrier sank in the East China Sea on September 2 on its way to China from Napier in August due to a typhoon.
The ship had almost 6000 cattle and 43 crew onboard. Only 3 out of the 39 Filipino survivors had been found since then, with one of them later on dying, there is no update on the 2 missing New Zealanders. Families of the crew still missing have been begging the authorities to continue searching, but unfortunately, the search had been called off.
Japanese authorities received help from the Chinese coast guard is conducting search missions for the missing crew members, but there has been no trace of them.
In the days following the ship’s sinking, Guy Bellerby, father of missing New Zealand crew member Lochie Bellerby said: “We are quite hopeful that they are floating around somewhere in a liferaft or been washed up on an island and so it is quite probable and we are hoping that they are still out there.”
A relative of the ship’s captain Dante Addug, Maya Addug-Sanchez, informed that they directly wrote to the owner of the UAE-based Gulf Navigation Holding PJSC, but only received a non-committal response. Still, hope ignited once more when some crew had survived was earlier this month after a private search team – funded by donations – found parts of a life raft and life jackets on islands off the coast of Japan.
The Vatican said in a statement this week that economic aid would “be given personally to the families of the missing persons and the two survivors, along with a small personal gift from Pope Francis, to express his closeness and solidarity”.
The Vatican said “This contribution is accompanied, from the very first days of the disaster, by spiritual, psychological and personalised support, offered to the Philippine families, by a team of professionals, chaplains and nuns of the Stella Maris Centres of the nation. The support, which in view of the COVID-19 restrictions has so far been implemented through the use of social media and a digital platform, will continue for several months. This work is entrusted to Mary, Star of the Sea, the protectress of seafarers, so that she will give courage and strength to all family members to face the future not with uncertainties but with confidence and serenity.”
Though it is not clear how much financial support will be given, the gift, according to the Vatican News, would be delivered in “collaboration with the Apostolic Nunciatures and the seafarers’ Stella Maris centres in the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand.”
Upon the discovery of debris earlier this month, a spokesperson for the family of Lochie Bellerby said they remained “hopeful of there being signs of life” and called on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade “for official diplomatic support with the Japanese Coast Guard while the window of survivability remains possible”.
The Government placed a temporary ban on the practice after the livestock carrier’s sinking caused renewed calls for a ban on live cattle exports.