Search and Rescue Ops After Hurricane Joaquin

Hurricane Joaquin is about as “extreme” as extreme weather events can get – ushering in harsh winds, storm surges, and even flooding dubbed as a ‘thousand-year-event,’ – its effects were felt on land and sea in full force, keeping local governments and federal agencies busy with search, rescue, recovery and emergency aid.

In South Carolina, record rainfall caused by Hurricane Joaquin and a separate low pressure system, brought deadly flooding on roadways. In a single, 12-hour period along the course of the harsh weather, for example, there were 315 vehicle collisions and over 750 calls for assistance from motorists. The President of the United States had declared a state of emergency to authorize federal aid. On-hand to assist South Carolina were the National Guard, and shared resources from states Florida, North Carolina and Tennessee. Other states had declared emergencies too, including Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina and Virginia.

Away from land, Bolivian-flagged cargo ship M/V Minouche ran afoul of the hurricane as well. The 212-foot ship was sinking 51 nautical miles off Haiti, prompting the 12-pereson crew to abandon it for a life raft. The United States Coast Guard (“USCG”) sent Coast Guard Cutter Northland as well as a helicopter crew to assist. A Good Samaritan vessel involved with Automated Mutual Assistance Vessel Rescue System (“AMVER”) also swooped in to help, and worked in coordination with the USCG. The result of the partnership was the successful location and rescue of the 12 mariners, who were brought to land by helicopter in good health.

The harsh weather brought trouble to yet another vessel, a TOTE Maritime RO/RO cargo ship called El Faro. The 790-foot vessel was headed to Puerto Rico from Florida when it was caught in the grips of Joaquin, lost propulsion and started to list. The USCG launched air and sea rescue crews for the El Faro but was unable to reestablish contact. Days and 183,000 square nautical miles of searching in challenging weather conditions would eventually yield debris from the lost ship, including containers, life jackets, and a damaged life boat. But the search would soon end, with the crew of 33 believed lost. The El Faro was manned by 28 US citizens and 5 Polish nationals.

We at Kemplon Engineering are one with the maritime community and the nation in sending our sympathies with the families of those lost, and in wishing all who have been affected by the extreme weather the best in their recovery.

For more articles on search and rescue, weather, and other topics relating to the maritime industry, explore our blog. We update it frequently with the news and issues of the day, as part of our commitment to addressing the needs and interests of our marine and industrial customers. For more information on our company, and the engineering services we are able to provide and the expertise we can share with clients, check out our website. We provide information on our service lineup, including details on welding and fabrication, precision machining, pipe fitting, laser cutting, and more. You may also contact us for queries and quotes at, or by phone at (877) 522-6526. We would love the chance to work with you on your projects and ideas.


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 Image “Storm Clouds” courtesy of antpkr at