Japan's coast guard has rescued a survivor in a life raft hours after finding an unconscious crew member in waters where a cattle ship capsized and is believed to have sunk during stormy weather, coast guard officials say.
The survivor is the third crewman to be found out of 43 who were aboard including 39 from the Philippines, two Australians and two New Zealanders.
One of the missing Australians has been identified as Queensland vet and father of one Lukas Orda while the other has only been identified as a stock handler.
Jay-nel Rosals, a 30-year-old deckhand and Philippine national, was floating in a raft in waters north of the Amami Oshima island in the East China Sea where rescuers have been looking for the crew of the Gulf Livestock 1 since it sent a distress signal early on Wednesday.
Earlier, coast guard rescuers found a man who was unconscious and floating face down about 120km northwest of the island.
The man, whose nationality and crew status was unknown, was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead, said Takahiro Yamada, a senior spokesman for the regional coast guard headquarters.
He said rescuers also spotted dozens of cattle carcasses floating in the area. So far, he said he was not aware of reports of carcasses washing ashore on the Japanese coast.
Another Filipino crew member, 45-year-old Chief Officer Edvardo Sareno, was rescued late on Wednesday. He told his rescuers the ship stalled when an engine stopped, then capsized after being hit by a powerful broadside wave and sank.
Officials quoted Sareno as saying he put on a life jacket and jumped into the sea, and that he did not see any other crew members after that.
"Thank you, thank you very much," he told rescuers as he was escorted onto a bigger ship, where he was wrapped in blankets.
"I'm the only one? No other one?" he asked the rescuers, then added, "I'm so sorry ... (I'm) so lucky."
The 11,947-tonne ship, its 43 crew and 5800 cattle left Napier in New Zealand in mid-August heading to Tangshan on China's eastern coast.
New Zealand officials said on Friday they were temporarily suspending any new approvals for the export of live cattle following the incident.
Maritime records show the ship has had a history of mechanical problems and breakdowns as well as equipment and training issues that came to the attention of authorities in recent years.
Rescuers on Friday found traces of fuel floating on the sea surface in the area, a sign of the ship's submersion.
Rescuers in four boats, an aircraft as well as divers joined Friday's search operations. A bundle of orange rope and a life jacket carrying the ship's name were also recovered, according to a coast guard statement.
Typhoon Maysak was blowing by southern Japan at the time of the sinking. The ship's automated tracker showed it sailing in high winds of 107km/h at its last known position, according to the ship-tracking website MarineTraffic.com.
"Our hearts go out to those onboard and their families at this time. We also express deep regret for the sad loss of the livestock on board," the ship's operator, Dubai-based Gulf Navigation Holdings PJSC, said in a statement. "We pray that there are other survivors."
Another powerful typhoon is approaching southern Japan over the weekend.
Australian Associated Press
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.