The fate of more than 30 crew aboard a cargo ship missing off the Bahamas in heavy seas whipped up by Hurricane Joaquin was unknown on Friday as the storm battered the island chain for a second day.
News the vessel had lost contact with shore came as forecasters shifted the likely track of the potentially catastrophic storm further away from the U.S. East Coast, but there were still warnings about the possibility of severe flooding in the Carolinas from unrelated heavy rains.
Late Friday afternoon, the U.S. National Hurricane Center downgraded Joaquin, the third hurricane of the 2015 Atlantic season, to a Category 3 hurricane on a scale of 1 to 5, down from its previous Category 4 ranking.
By Friday evening, Joaquin’s core was beginning to move away from the central Bahamas, the Miami-based center said in an 8 p.m. EDT advisory, adding that hurricane conditions would continue for several more hours.
The storm, packing maximum sustained winds of 125 miles per hour (205 km per hour), was about 25 miles (40 km) north-northeast of San Salvador in the Bahamas and moving northeast at 7 mph (11 kph), the NHC said. The storm’s movement was expected to gradually pick up speed in the next 48 hours.