JOHANNESBURG, May 4 (Reuters) A bulk carrier reportedly ferrying iron ore from Brazil to China sank off South Africa's eastern coast and 27 crew members were missing, rescue officials said today.
Six of the ship's 33 crew were rescued last night, shortly after the vessel went down off Port Alfred after taking on water in strong winds, the officials said.
''From what we understand, it started to list to one side and started to break up in half before sinking,'' Paul Killeen, deputy sea rescue commander at nearby Port Elizabeth, told Reuters by telephone.
''One crew member was rescued from the sea, and five others from a life raft, the rest of the crew have not been seen. The missing 27 crew were all wearing life jackets,'' he said.
''I believe there is a good chance we will find some of them if not all alive,'' Killeen added.
The crew's nationality was not immediately known, he said.
A South African military aircraft joined the search for the missing crew, the officials said.
It was not immediately clear where the 299-metre bulk carrier was registered. Killeen said the ship was reported to have been carrying iron ore from Brazil to China.
He could not estimate the vessel's capacity, but added that a 299-metre long ship is a ''relatively large'' bulk vessel.
There were strong winds when the ship sank at about 10 p.m (2000 GMT) 0130 hrs Ist thurday moring, he said.
REUTERS KD PM1415