Baku, 22 October 2002 (RFE/RL) -- At least 50 passengers and crew aboard a ship in the Caspian Sea are feared drowned after the vessel sank this morning. The Azerbaijani ship "Mercury" left from the port of Aqtau, Kazakhstan. The ship's captain broadcast a distress signal at about 9 a.m. local time, and then radio contact was lost. The ship was 70 to 100 kilometers off the coast of Azerbaijan when the last contact was made.
There are conflicting reports about the number of people on the ship when it sank, but it is estimated that at least 50 were aboard. There were also 2,000 tons of oil aboard.
Rescue efforts are being hampered by storms in the region, but one body has reportedly been recovered.