No sign of cargo ship El Faro in wake of Hurricane Joaquin

Coast Guard Looking for Cargo Ship That Disappeared During Hurricane Joaquin
Coast Guard Looking for Cargo Ship That Disappeared During Hurricane Joaquin

A stricken cargo ship with 28 Americans on board that vanished during Hurricane Joaquin remained missing early Saturday.

Officials said there was still no sign of the El Faro, which was last heard from around 7:20 a.m. Thursday when a distress call indicated it had lost power and was taking on water.

The 735-foot vessel was bound for San Juan in Puerto Rico from Jacksonville, Florida, at the time. It was carrying 28 Americans and five Polish nationals.

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Around 850 square nautical miles were searched on Friday and the effort resumed at dawn Saturday.

When the El Faro left Jacksonville on Tuesday Joaquin was just a tropical storm. It quickly grew in intensity and was declared a Category 4 storm Thursday as it approached the Bahamas carrying winds of 130 mph.

Anthony Chiarello, president and CEO of ship owner TOTE, said late Friday that he had met with the crew members' families.

"Our number one priority ... is the safe return of the 33 people on the vessel," he told a press conference.

Chiarello said the firm was working with the coast guard and that everything "humanly possible" was being done to find and recover the ship.

WATCH: Fly into eye of Hurricane Joaquin:

Fly Into Eye of Hurricane Joaquin
Fly Into Eye of Hurricane Joaquin

The El Faro had lost propulsion and was listing at 15 degrees when it was last heard from. At the time, its crew said the vessel had taken on water but all flooding had been contained, the coast guard said.

TOTE said the majority of the Americans aboard were based around Jacksonville, Florida.

Joaquin remained a Category 3 hurricane early Saturday and by 5 a.m. ET was centered about 120 miles northeast of San Salvador, Bahamas, and about 700 miles southwest of Bermuda. It had maximum sustained winds of 125 mph and was moving northeast at 13 mph.

Earlier models showed the U.S. could possibly get a direct hit from the storm in the coming days, but the latest predictions show Joaquin offshore.

Meanwhile, 22 million people were under flood watches early Saturday in the Southeast as forecasters warned a separate storm could bring "record rainfall and life-threatening flash flooding."

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