A VIOLENT storm may have claimed the lives of 29 Hongkong men aboard an American-owned freighter off the east coast of Canada. The 160-metre Gold Bond Conveyor sank off Nova Scotia during a fierce storm early yesterday. Rescue workers sighted a body wearing only a life-jacket in the freezing waters, said Lieutenant-Commander Jeff Agnew, a rescue official with the Canadian armed forces. A search for the other 32 crew members was being carried out by the Canadian navy, helicopters and a coast guard vessel. Heavy snow and fog has hampering rescue efforts. ''The captain is British, but he was born in Hongkong,'' Mr Agnew said of the crew. ''None of them was born in Britain. The British ones have Hongkong passports.'' Skaarup Shipping Corporation in the US, manager of Gold Bond Conveyor, was early this morning still trying to contact the families of the Hongkong captain, Mr Chan Man-hoi and the other local crewmen through a local law firm, Holman Fenwick and Willan. A spokesman, Mr Frank Parker, confirmed that apart from a Taiwanese and two mainlanders, the crew were all Hongkong Chinese seamen. The company would not comment on compensation and Mr Parker said early this morning the search was still going on. He had no further information on the ages of the crewmen. ''Right now the facts are very hard to find. ''It is very difficult to tell the families sad news like this,'' he said. The ship is owned by an affiliate company of Skaarup Shipping, Liberian-registered Oceanway Leasing. The Gold Bond Conveyor, which was carrying gypsum ore from Halifax, Canada, to Tampa, Florida, sank just after midnight, when winds were reported gusting to 130 kilometres per hour and waves were over 18 metres high. The ship went down about 105 km southeast of Cape Sable Island. Also spotted were an overturned life-raft, a life-jacket and an immersion suit, even though the vessel was not known to be equipped with the suits. A British vessel and a Canadian aircraft were at the scene at the time of the sinking but it could not be determined if any crew members made it into life rafts, officials said. The vessel had begun to list on Sunday afternoon and Captain Chan said at about 10 pm that the ship was rolling heavily and waves were breaking over the decks. The ship sent a mayday message soon after midnight. The freighter left Halifax on Saturday just as the storm hit the Maritimes. The sinking marks the second major accident for the ship. In April 1975, a year after it was built, the gypsum carrier ran aground in Halifax harbour during a storm.