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Russian rescuers halt search for sailors on sunken Chinese ship


VLADIVOSTOK, February 20 (RIA Novosti) - Russian rescuers have called a halt to the search for eight crewmembers from a Chinese cargo ship which sank off Russia's Pacific Coast, a spokesman for the Vladivostok rescue center said on Friday.

"The Lazurit rescue boat is returning to its base," the spokesman said. "During the search neither the bodies of the crewmembers or any traces of the vessel were found."

The New Star, owned by a Hong Kong based company, disappeared from radar screens in the Sea of Japan 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the port of Nakhodka in the Primorye Territory during a storm on Sunday. The ship had earlier been chased by two Russian coast guard vessels, but refused to stop despite being fired on.

The ship issued a distress signal when the vessel started to take on water during the storm on Sunday, and 16 crew members, all of them Indonesian or Chinese nationals, got into two lifeboats. Half of them were picked up by a Russian vessel, but an attempt to save the other eight sailors failed when they were washed out to sea.

The Russian Foreign Ministry and the Primorye Territory Federal Security Service (FSB) department have said the captain of the vessel was to blame for the tragedy.

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