The 790-foot vessel is adrift and alone in one of the fiercest storms that Mother Nature can conjure.
The latest tracking maps show the powerful storm staying well offshore after it leaves the island chain, which is expected to happen sometime on late Friday or early Saturday morning.
The El Faro was in the eye of Joaquin about 35 miles north of Crooked Island when it issued the distress call, according to Chief Ryan Doss with the Coast Guard in Miami.
The Navy also began assisting the search.
The planes and helicopters involved in the search returned to base Friday evening, hampered by visibility conditions after sunset. They resumed the effort early Saturday, concentrating around Crooked Island and Long Island. The objects have not been confirmed to be from the El Faro at this time.
Coast Guard Cutter Northland, homeported in Portsmouth, Virginia.
Family asks why did ship set sail into storm? “The items would appear to be consistent with the missing ship”.
The meeting was emotional, said Anthony Chiarello, president and CEO of TOTE Inc., which owns the El Faro.
A tropical storm warning is in effect elsewhere, including a few Cuban provinces. The ship was heading to Puerto Rico on a regular cargo supply run to the US island territory when it ran into trouble. Officials said they were flying as low as 500 feet (152 meters) in their search.
Meanwhile, family members are asking everyone to pray, the station reported.
Authorities announced that an oil sheen and container believed to belong to El Faro were found in the search area. “We’re going to push it to the operational limits as far as we can”, Capt. Mark Fedor said.
“We are closely monitoring Nassau now to see where the storm is at first light … since that is where the majority of the population is located”, said Basil Dean of the Bahamas Department of Meteorology.
CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray noted that the ship may have been able to ride out the storm as it passed, or it might have been dragged northward with it. The problem is that, at this point, nobody really knows.
“The state of New Jersey knows how to deal with these things, unfortunately we’ve dealt with them before”, Gov. Christie said. “That storm just came up way too fast”.
The ship, with 28 USA citizens and five Polish nationals aboard, was headed to San Juan, Puerto Rico, from Jacksonville, Florida, when it reported it had lost propulsion and was listing and taking on water, the Coast Guard said.
But on Thursday at 7:20 a.m. ET, the firm lost all communication with the El Faro, Nolan said.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding this weekend with the possibility of Hurricane Joaquin coming in”.
The US Coast Guard said in a statement: “The crew reported the ship had previously taken on water, but that all flooding had been contained”.
One Bahamas resident, Shandira Forbes, said she had been in contact with her mother on the island of Acklins.