FAMILY HEARTBREAK: Why aren’t we searching?
The families of the missing crew of an ill-fated cattle ship which sank in the East China Sea fear they are starving to death, if they are still alive, as governments give up on the sailors.
It appears the high cost of search and rescue has prevented further efforts.
"If they are out there somewhere, they are starving," Ulrich Orda, the father of missing Townsville veterinarian Lukas Orda, told the Bulletin on Friday.
"That's terrible and devastating for the families.
"Intervention happened with multiple nations searching for the (missing aircraft) MH370. They looked for months. We are surprised and devastated this is not happening now."
Gulf Livestock 1 sank in Typhoon Maysak in waters off Japan's southern islands on September 2 carrying 5800 cattle and 43 crew.
The Japanese Coast Guard found three crew, two of whom survived, but the search was suspended on September 11 as another severe typhoon swept through the area.
By September 16 the search was scaled back to "routine patrols".
Forty crew, one lifeboat and four auto-deployed life rafts equipped with food rations and water to last 30 days are unaccounted for.
All but three crew were said to be on the ship's bridge preparing to board life vessels when it capsized and sank.
The missing crew include Lukas Orda, another Australian stockman William Mainprize, two New Zealanders Scott Harris and Lochie Bellerby and another 36 mostly Filipino sailors.
A joint statement by Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack suggested Australia was offering Japan "any supporting capability needed" but exactly what was offered is unclear.
A statement from Japan's embassy in Australia said they had not learned of any specific requests from the Australian Government to join the search.
"We can share with you that the Japan Coast Guard, despite the extremely difficult and dangerous conditions caused by two strong typhoons, conducted search and rescue operations by mobilising a total of 14 patrol vessels, 17 aircrafts, 18 special rescues team members, and 6 mobile rescuers in its efforts to find the missing crew members for an extraordinary length of 7 days. It is truly regrettable that the missing crew members have not yet been found despite the dedicated efforts of the JCG.
"We learnt, however, that the JCG will continue its search and rescue activities, particularly in the areas where the vessel is thought to have sunk with the closest attention.
"Although we have not yet learnt of any specific requests from the Australian Government to join the search have been received, the Japanese government will continue to conduct its search and rescue activities."
Support charity for seafarers Sailors Society said the tragedy was devastating for the families.
"These families are beyond desperate now," Sailors Society CEO Sara Baade said.
"In our experience, not knowing whether your loved one is alive or dead is one of the most painful experiences someone can go through and can cause immeasurable trauma.
"They don't know whether to grieve or hope - it is tearing them apart."
A GoFundMe fundraiser has raised more than $100,000 to fund a private search but the reality is far more cash is needed.
Mr Orda said he had been told a search with an aircraft would cost "a couple of million dollars", that a search by satellite would cost up to $200,000 a day and would have to continue for days, while hiring deep dive specialists was also prohibitive.
"We just don't have the funds. It's far beyond what the families can do," Mr Orda said.
Townsville veterinarian Michael Jensen, who previously employed Lukas Orda and his wife Emma, now with a six-month-old boy Theo, said it was a tragedy "in all respects".
"All we can do is support the family in whatever way we can," Mr Jensen said.
Originally published as FAMILY HEARTBREAK: Why aren't we searching?