Swedish cargo ship sinks in Baltic

A Swedish cargo ship has sunk in the Baltic Sea between the islands of Gotland and Öland in extreme weather conditions.

The ship, Finnbirch, sunk at 7:37pm on Wednesday, according to the Swedish marine rescue services. A frantic rescue operation was underway on Wednesday evening to pluck the 14-man crew from rough seas.

By 8:30pm, six men were reported to have been rescued. The crew of the rescue helicopter had cut off radio contact in order to keep their focus on rescuing the men in the terrible weather conditions. Kalmar Hospital is standing by to receive casualties.

Rescue services received a Mayday signal from the ship at 3:40pm. At that point, it was listing at an angle of 40 degrees.

At 4.20 p.m. rescue staff were able to report that they had caught site of the crew up on deck, wearing lifejackets. But extreme storm winds, with waves reaching a height of 4.5 metres, and heavy snow were hampering the rescue operation.

Two rescue vessels were forced to turn back due to the extreme conditions. The mean wind speed at that point was 20 metres per second. The coastguard vessel KBV281 is on its way to the scene, but is not expected to arrive until Thursday morning.

Rescue helicopters from Visby and Ronneby have been dispatched to the vessel.

Finnbirch is a 155-metre long roll-on-roll-of vessel with a crew of 14, four of whom are Swedes and 10 of whom are Philippinos. It is owned by Stockholm-based Lindholmen Shipping. It was travelling from Helsinki to Århus.

Resuce staff established radio contact with the crew before it sank, and at that point all on board were unharmed.