At 06h30, Wednesday, 08th April, NSRI Richards Bay duty crew were placed on alert following reports from the crew of the ski-boat MY LADY reporting to be 1 nautical mile off-shore of Sodwana and they had sighted red distress flares fired approximately a further 6 to 7 nautical miles out to sea from where they were and deployed from an unidentified source (90 nautical miles North of Richards Bay).
The crew of MY LADY confirmed seeing one red distress flare and later followed by a second red distress flare and the alarm was raised.
MY LADY began a search of the area and NSRI Richards Bay arranged Telkom Maritime Radio Services to broadcast an all ships alert for shipping in the area to keep a look out and to report any sightings of flares or a vessel in distress.
NSRI Richards Bay then arranged an Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife boat and a private boat WILD CAT to launch from Sodwana to join in a search and boat clubs and boat launch sites were contacted to determine if any boats were reported to be overdue or missing and boats at sea to be contacted to confirm that they were not in any difficulties but it appears that all local vessels are accounted for and not in any difficulty.
The 3 boats searching the area found nothing.
A ship at sea at the time and in the general vicinity (approximately 3 to 4 nautical miles further out to sea from where the flares were suspected to have been deployed) reported that they had not noticed any red distress flares and they kept watch before continuing on their voyage.
NSRI Richards Bay plotted the drift direction and wind speed and direction to determine if any vessel had been at sea in difficulties in that vicinity and had travelled (drifted) Southward with the drift taking into account estimated distance from shore (where the red distress flares had first been sighted) and MRCC (Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre) plotted the same course and the estimates coincided with each other and at 17h00, although still no boats or persons were reported overdue or missing, NSRI Richards Bay duty crew launched the sea rescue craft SPIRIT OF ROUND TABLE and searched an area 30 nautical miles North of Richards Bay and up to 4 nautical miles off-shore but despite an extensive search of the area no signs of any vessel or persons in distress have been located.
It remains unknown the source of the red distress flares and while any active search effort has been suspended the situation will continue to be monitored and Maritime rescue agencies will react to any new information that may shed any light on the activation of the red distress flares about 7 to 8 nautical miles off-shore of Sodwana this morning.
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