Rescue underway for blazing ship

A rescue operation was launched today to save 111 people from a burning ship.

The Athena, a factory fishing vessel, is 230 miles south-west of the Isles of Scilly.

The Falmouth Coastguard is co-ordinating an air and sea rescue.

The Athena is owned by shipping company, Thor, based in the Faroe Islands and suffered an earlier fire in 2008.

A spokesman for the Coastguard said: ``Falmouth coastguard were contacted by the French MRC. We assume they received a distress call from the Athena, by a satellite distress system.

“The fishing vessel is 89 metres in length and is a factory fishing vessel, with a crew of 111 people, of mixed nationalities.

“We are co-ordinating a search and rescue mission, but it’s a long way from either the UK or French coast.

“We put out a broadcast action, which means we sent out a message to any ships in the area that could assist.

“ We have got some ships that have responded and are proceeding to the area. We’ve got three commercial vessels proceeding with one, a cargo ship, already there.

“There are 81 persons in life rafts with 30 people remaining on the ship fighting the fire.

“The cargo ship is helping to offload people in the life rafts.

“We believe the situation is under control. The fire is still burning, but less than it was.”

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