21 Feb 2010

NZ girl in Atlantic rescue

11:52 am on 21 February 2010

A New Zealand girl is among 64 passengers and crew rescued from life rafts after the sailing ship they were on sank hundreds of kilometres off the coast of Brazil.

Mei Barry, 17, from Auckland's North Shore, was doing her year 13 studies as an overseas student aboard the Canadian ship the SV Concordia, which capsized and sank on Thursday.

Canadian broadcaster CBC reports the vessel sank within 20 minutes, but the 48 students and 16 crew managed to get into life-rafts and were picked up on Friday by two merchant vessels.

A CBC correspondent who has spoken to the first passengers to arrive in Brazil said the group spent up to 40 hours on life-rafts battered by waves of up to four metres and strong winds.

Mei Barry's father, Desmond Barry, said on Sunday he and wife Yoshiko had had a brief phone conversation with their daughter, who was in tears throughout the telephone call.

"She just basically told me that they're safe and well, but it was mainly tears and that she loves us," he said

Passengers were seeing medical officers, undergoing psychological evaluations and giving media interviews in Rio de Janiero, Mr Barry said. He plans to fly to Rio de Janiero to bring his daughter home.

Distress signal

A distress signal was picked up from the three-masted Concordia about 5pm (1900 GMT) on Thursday, the BBC reports.

A Brazilian Air Force plane spotted the rafts from the Concordia about 500 kilometres miles off the coast of Rio de Janeiro three hours later.

West Island College International in Nova Scotia, which owns the vessel, said it had been on a 10-month voyage when it capsized.

The Concordia left Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, last September carrying senior high school and university students.

The BBC reports most of the students were Canada. Others were from the United States, Mexico and Japan, as well as the one student from New Zealand and another from Australia.

Canadian media say the only injuries are cuts and bruises.