Steve April 13, 2021

Six people were rescued and searchers were looking for others after a 129-foot commercial ship capsized off the Louisiana coast Tuesday, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

The Guard got an emergency beacon notification around 4:30 p.m. and responded with other boats to the area 8 miles south of Port Fourchon, which is south of New Orleans, it said in a statement.

It was not clear how many people were aboard the commercial ship, described as a lift vessel.

Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer Jonathan Lally said that several others were believed missing.

The area experienced a weather phenomenon, a “wake low,” Tuesday afternoon, which resulted in winds of 70 to 80 mph that would have made seas very rough, said Benjamin Schott, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service’s New Orleans area office.

The search effort included an HC-144 Ocean Sentry plane from Corpus Cristi, Texas, and four private vessels, in addition to several Coast Guard ships, boats and a helicopter.

Four people were rescued from the water by private vessels, the Coast Guard said.

The wake low was spun off from a complex of thunderstorms that moved through southeastern Louisiana, Schott said.

A wake low creates a small but deep area of low pressure, with the effect of increased winds even outside a thunderstorm, he said. They are unusual but can happen anywhere, and Schott described Tuesday’s as “a really powerful one.”

The weather service had issued a special marine warning due to high winds.

The Coast Guard’s statement on the incident and rescue effort did not list a cause of the capsizing.

Image: Phil helselPhil Helsel

Phil Helsel is a reporter for NBC News.

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