Image: Capsized ship survivor
Jan Ove Brakstad  /  AP
A survivor, center, from the freighter MS Rocknes, which capsized off Bergen, Norway, on Monday, is cared for by police and rescue workers early Tuesday.
updated 1/20/2004 9:17:15 PM ET 2004-01-21T02:17:15

Rescuers called off a search for 15 Filipino crewmen Tuesday, saying they likely died when their freighter capsized a day earlier in an icy Norwegian inlet. Three other seamen were confirmed dead, while 12 were rescued.

“There is no hope of finding survivors,” rescue leader Trygve Sveen told The Associated Press.

The MS Rocknes overturned in a narrow inlet between the island of Bjoroey and Norway’s western coast, less than 200 yards from land after it put out a distress call. The 30 crew members included 24 Filipinos, three Dutch, two Norwegians and one German.

The last three survivors were pulled through a hole cut in the ship’s bottom Monday night after being trapped for seven hours. Rescuers had communicated by passing notes to those trapped inside, and one Filipino crewman pleaded for urgent action.

On a scrap of battered paper, he had written in large blue letters, “Ok. But pls make fast,” adding that his shipmates were “dying.”

As the hours passed, “the notes got more and more dramatic,” said Leif Linde of the Bergen Fire Department. “In the end, we just had to cut through the hull.”

Searchers heard no noises overnight indicating anybody alive inside the hull, according to the Norwegian Rescue Coordination Center.

The 544-foot freighter, which was loaded with rock and headed for Emden, Germany, capsized in calm weather.

The cause of the accident hasn’t been determined, but surviving crewmen told the Bergens Tidende newspaper’s Internet edition that the ship had hit bottom or a shoal shortly before capsizing, possibly damaging the hull.

In nearby Bergen, the biggest city on Norway’s west coast, flags flew at half-staff, and the ship’s owner requested a maritime inquiry.

The ship’s Norwegian captain, Jan Aksel Juvik, 56, was among the dead, according to a list from the Hordaland police district. Of the other dead and missing, 16 were Filipino and one was German.

Atle Jebsen, of Jebsen Management, said the Antigua-registered freighter, built in 2001, was a bulk carrier with modern equipment and safety features.

His company has offered to pay to transport the victims’ families to the scene.

Salvage experts pumped air inside the MS Rocknes’ hull to keep it from sinking. It could be as late as Thursday before searchers enter the ship.

Image: Capsized freighter
TV Norge  /  Reuters file
The capsized freighter on Tuesday.
Experts placed containment booms around the wreck to prevent the freighter’s oil and diesel fuel from spreading. However, state radio said dead seabirds were already being found near the wreck, possibly from contamination.

At least 15 rescue ships and small boats responded quickly, most from a nearby naval base. Helicopters buzzed over the scene in the darkness.

Bjoroey is about 200 miles west of the capital, Oslo.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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