Search continues for survivors of Korean freighter

The Stella Daisy was carrying 16 Filipinos and eight Koreans when it issued an emergency call, saying it was taking on water

Ships and aircraft from various countries were scouring the Atlantic Ocean for shipwreck survivors Sunday, after a distressed South Korean freighter apparently sank off the coast of Uruguay.

The Stella Daisy, a Very Large Ore Carrier (VLOC) with a capacity of more than 260,000 tonnes, was carrying 16 Filipinos and eight Koreans when it issued an emergency call on Friday, saying it was taking on water.

Two Filipino crew members were rescued Saturday and the search was ongoing for the others, said Gaston Jaunsolo, a spokesman for the Uruguayan navy.

He said the shipwreck's cause was still unclear: "It was not a complicated day for navigation," he said.

The two rescued sailors -- who are "in good condition," according to Jaunsolo -- said at one point the captain alerted the crew that "water was entering" and that the ship was breaking.

Jaunsolo said a Brazilian aircraft had joined the search and would take part again on Monday. Four other Korean merchant ships and an Argentine navy ship were also assisting.

The navy spokesman said the search was on for two more life rafts on which they hoped to find more survivors. Three rafts have already been recovered.

Because the ship was far off the Uruguayan coast -- some 2,000 nautical miles, or 3,700 kilometers, from Montevideo -- the initial search was done by four merchant ships in the area.

The first ships to reach the scene noticed a "strong smell of fuel" and spotted debris, "an indication that the damaged ship had sunk," according to a statement from the navy.

The ship, which is flagged in the Marshall Islands, had departed from a port in Brazil. Its intended destination was not immediately clear.