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U.S. Coast Guard rescues all crew from inside stricken cargo ship off Georgia coast

Rescue workers on Monday freed the fourth and final crew member from inside a South Korean cargo vessel that flipped on its side off the coast of Georgia, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

Golden Ray listed heavily then rolled on its side early Sunday after leaving port

U.S. Coast Guard crews and port partners respond to an overturned cargo vessel with a fire on board in St. Simons Sound, Ga., on Sunday. (U.S. Coast Guard via AP)

Rescue workers on Monday freed the fourth and final crew member from inside a South Korean cargo vessel that flipped on its side off the coast of Georgia, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

Coast Guard Lt. Lloyd Heflin told The Associated Press that the crew member was rescued just before 6 p.m. local time on Monday.

He said the crew member appears to be in good medical condition but is being evaluated.

Salvage crews gradually drilled an opening in the ship's hull, first to deliver food and water to the survivors, then to extract them, Coast Guard Capt. John Reed said at a news conference earlier Monday.

Three other crew members were rescued earlier in the day from the Golden Ray.  

Asked about the condition of the rescued crew members, Reed said two of them were able to walk off the hull of the ship and get on a tugboat. All three were taken to hospital.

"Their condition is relatively good for having spent 34 or 35 hours in the conditions they were in," Reed said.

He declined to comment on what might have caused the vessel to tip over as it transported cars.

The capsizing of the Golden Ray in Georgia's St. Simons Sound early Sunday caused fires and smoke, and while the flames are now apparently out, the huge ship is listing at roughly 90 degrees, with more than 4,000 vehicles inside it.

A South Korea foreign ministry statement said Monday that the crew members were alive and isolated inside an engine room. It said 10 South Koreans and 13 Filipinos had been on board, along with a U.S. harbour pilot, when the ship began tilting over.

The 200-metre vehicle carrier is now stuck in the shipping channel, closing the busy Port of Brunswick.

Coast Guard crews lifted 20 people into helicopters hovering overhead on Sunday before rescuers determined the smoke and flames and unstable cargo made it too risky to venture further inside. Rescuers were able to climb aboard on Monday after officials determined it was stable enough for a helicopter to land on the hull, Coast Guard Lt. Kit Pace said.

People watch from Jekyll Island's Driftwood Beach as the Golden Ray cargo ship is capsized in the background, off the Georgia coast. (Terry Dickson/The Associated Press)

The Coast Guard said it was notified of the capsized vessel by a 911 call at about 2 a.m. Sunday. The cause remains under investigation. Hurricane Dorian was already well beyond the Georgia coast, where it blew past last week before being downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone.

The ship channel is currently closed to vessel traffic, with a safety of a half mile around the Golden Ray in St. Simons Sound. The Coast Guard said the overturned ship hasn't released any pollutants so far, but cleanup efforts are ready if needed.

The ship is owned by Hyundai Glovis, which carries cars for automakers Hyundai and Kia as well as others.

Brunswick is one of the busiest U.S. seaports for shipping automobiles. Nearly 614,000 vehicles and heavy machinery units moved across its docks in the 2019 fiscal year that ended June 30, according to the Georgia Ports Authority.

With files from Reuters

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