A cargo ship carrying about 14,600 sheep capsized in the Black Sea off the coast of Romania, multiple reports say.
Its crewmembers – 20 Syrian nationals and one Lebanese individual – were all saved, along with 32 sheep found swimming by the ship. One of the crewmembers was hospitalized for hypothermia, the BBC said.
Rescue efforts helmed by military, police and divers were attempting to restore the ship and carry it to shore, the AFP said. It is unclear what caused the ship to capsize, and it is currently under investigation by Romanian authorities.
At least thousands of sheep are still stuck in the wreckage, many of which are expected to have drowned, the BBC said.
Acebop, Romania’s livestock and breeding industry group, called for an investigation into the incident, according to AFP.
“Our association is shocked by the disaster,” Acebop President Mary Pana said in a statement to AFP. “If we cannot protect livestock during long-distance transports, we should outright ban them.”
Romania is the largest exporter of sheep to third-party countries in the European Union, mainly to Middle Eastern countries, and the third-largest breeder of sheep in the EU, behind Great Britain and Spain.
The country has drawn criticism from animal rights’ groups for subjecting sheep exported by cargo ships to inhumane conditions.
“We need to move away from live export, which traumatizes millions of animals each year, in order to prevent tragedies like this.” said Alesia Soltanpanah, the executive director of World Animal Protection US, in a statement to USA TODAY.
Vytenis Andriukaitis, the EU’s health and food safety commissioner, called for Romania to stop the export of 70,000 sheep to the Persian Gulf in July, according to Balkan Insight, citing the extreme heat in the area.
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