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U.S. rescuers seek fourth crew member on stricken South Korean ship

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(Reuters) – Rescue workers on Monday freed three of four missing crew members from a South Korean cargo vessel that flipped on its side off the coast of Georgia, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

Salvage crews gradually drilled an opening in the ship’s hull, first to deliver food and water to the survivors, then to extract them, USCG Captain John Reed told a livestreamed news conference.

The fourth missing crew member was trapped behind a glass panel in the ship’s engineering control room, and though rescuers could see him, they had yet to get him out, he said.

“He’s at greatest risk … right now,” said Reed. “We are trusting that the ventilation in there remains intact.”

The fourth crew member has yet to get any food or water around 36 hours into his ordeal. Temperatures for rescue workers on the hull of the ship rose to 120 fahrenheit (49 celsius) and Reed believed it was even hotter inside the ship.

Asked about the condition of the three rescued crew members, Reed said two of them were able to walk off the hull of the ship and get on a tugboat. All three were taken to hospital.

“Their condition is relatively good for having spent 34 or 35 hours in the conditions they were in,” Reed said.

He declined to comment on what might have caused the vessel to tip over as it transported cars.

Helicopters rescued 20 crew members from the 656-foot (200-meter) Golden Ray on Sunday after it became disabled, began listing and eventually fell helplessly on its side in St. Simons Sound, near Brunswick, Georgia, the Coast Guard said in a statement.

The ship had previously called at the Port of Brunswick, Georgia, and was headed to Baltimore, according to the Vessel Finder website. The carrier was built in 2017 and was sailing under the flag of the Marshall Islands, it said.

(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York and Andrew Hay in New Mexico; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Sandra Maler)

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