Louisiana capsizing – Coast Guard launch search for 12 people lost at sea as 129ft ship flips in 'microburst' storm

THE Coast Guard has launched a desperate search for 12 people lost at sea after a 129ft commercial boat capsized off the coast of Louisiana on Tuesday.

Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer Jonathan Lally said the agency received a flurry of reports of "multiple vessels hit" during a possible "microburst" storm.

The dangerous type of storm – a localized column of sinking air within a thunderstorm – may have hit the boat and caused it to sink, Lally said.

By 11pm last light, six people aboard the ship had been rescued – but a desperate search was ongoing for more.

About a dozen people are still believed to be missing, according to reports.

Two cutters, two boats, a helicopter and four civilian vessels have been deployed for the rescue some eight miles south of Grand Isle.

 "As of now, we are trying to find out how many people are missing but we are still continuing to search," Lally told Fox 8.

"We don't have good clarification of exactly how many people we are still searching for and we don’t know the exact cause of the incident but we do know at the time of the report and incident there was inclement weather in the area – but the focus is to find the missing people."

In a statement, the Coast Guard said: "Coast Guard watchstanders received an emergency position indicating radio beacon notification at 4.30pm of a distressed 129-foot commercial lift vessel.

"The watchstanders issued an urgent marine information broadcast, which multiple good Samaritan boatcrews responded to."

The Coast Guard Cutter Glenn Harris, a 154-foot Fast Response Cutter boat, was able to recover one person within half an hour of receiving mayday calls.

Another person was rescued by a 45-foot Coast Guard Response Boat while the four others were rescued by Good Samaritan boats.

Additional Coast Guard ships were en route from Houston, as well as a search plane from Corpus Christi.

There were widespread reports of high winds, with some hail and flooding in southeastern Louisiana, according to the National Weather Service. 

Piercing winds of up to 75mph made helicopter flights near impossible.

Bruce Simon, a resident of Cutoff, said he never heard so many "mayday" calls in his life.

"I’m on the boat and we doing 4 knots keeping the bow in the wind," he wrote on Facebook.

"Waves are breaking over the bow," Simon added.

Simon said the waters were so severe, he saw people in nearby boats fall out as well.

"Please pray for the lost," he ended on Facebook.

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