Ten fisherman died and three others were missing Monday after abandoning their trawler in 20-foot swells off South Africa, officials said.
The 138-foot ship began taking on water 40 miles southeast of the Cape of Good Hope, according to a statement from South Africa's National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI).
The waters off South Africa that separate the Atlantic and Indian oceans are among the roughest in the world. The fishing vessel encountered 50 mph winds before the crew made their mayday call at 6 p.m. local time (noon ET) Sunday.
A South African Air Force helicopter and two NSRI vessels were joined by nearby fishing boats in responding to the call and traveling to the area, by which time weather conditions had improved.
Nine bodies were recovered from the water and nine people were rescued, although one of them later died from their injuries, the statement said. It labeled the incident a "tragedy."
The air force helicopter withdrew from the search but four fishing vessels were still looking for the three missing people Monday.
"Sincerest condolences are expressed to the families of the deceased fishermen," the statement said.