Two cargo ships collided in the North Sea in the early hours of Tuesday morning, sinking one vessel and leaving at least one mariner dead, the authorities said.
Two crew members from British cargo vessel Verity were rescued during an extensive operation that included German Maritime Search and Rescue Service and police vessels, aircraft and a cruise ship. Teams were still searching for four people presumed to have been in the 60-degree water since early Tuesday.
The collision occurred at around 5 a.m. 14 miles southwest of Heligoland, a tiny rocky island situated north of Germany and west of Denmark. The site of the incident is one of the busiest stretches of water in the world, according to the German authorities.
Both the Verity and the Polesie, which sails out of Poland but is registered in the Bahamas, had begun their journeys in Germany and were hauling freight within Europe.
The search for survivors was impeded by high winds and 10-foot waves, according to news reports.
While visibility is said to have been reduced during the early morning, it was not yet known why the 299-foot Verity collided with the 623-foot Polesie.
The larger Polesie had left Hamburg for passage to La Coruña, Spain, and made it though the crash, its 22 crew members unharmed, according to the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service.
But the Verity, heading from Bremen to Immingham, England, with seven crew members on board, is believed to have sunk.
Because of modern navigation equipment, such collisions are rare despite the global increase in ship traffic.
“I thank the rescue teams that have been working since early morning,” Volker Wissing, the federal minister responsible for maritime traffic, wrote on X, the site formerly known as Twitter. “They are doing everything they can to rescue the missing,” he added.
The authorities have closed the skies above the collision site to allow rescue aircraft to take part in the search unhindered.