• Reuters

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The U.S. Coast Guard told relatives of the mostly-American crew of a missing cargo ship that it was preparing to call off the search for possible survivors, several media outlets reported on Wednesday.

The El Faro container ship is believed to have sunk after it suffered engine failure and was caught in the path of powerful Hurricane Joaquin last Thursday off the southern Bahamas.

The Coast Guard would not confirm the media reports, but said any decision to halt the search and rescue effort would be announced at a news conference scheduled for 3 p.m. EDT (1900 GMT). Executives from Tote Maritime Puerto Rico, the owners of the ship, also scheduled a separate news conference for later in the day.

Officials had acknowledged that chances of finding survivors were remote, given that the 790-foot (240-meter) El Faro disappeared in the middle of a ferocious storm with high seas whipped up by winds of 130 miles (215 km) per hour.

So far, the body of only one presumed crew member has been found, amid two large debris fields strewn with life jackets, cargo containers and white polystyrene packing foam.

Federal safety officials began an investigation on Tuesday into what maritime experts have called the worst cargo shipping disaster involving a U.S.-flagged vessel in more than 30 years.

A U.S. National Transportation Safety Board official, spearheading the investigation, has said deep seas would likely hamper attempts to find the ship and its 28 American crew members and five Polish contractors.

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