Asgard II sinks off France

More than 20 people were forced to abandon the tall ship Asgard II after it started taking in water just off the French coast overnight.

Tall ship Asgard II sank off the coast of France today.

The vessel, an Irish sail training ship, sent a distress signal shortly after 2am from the Bay of Biscay when it started taking in water.

Five crew members and 20 trainees evacuated in lifeboats and were rescued by the French coastguard.

Among them were 22 Irish, two from the UK and one from Italy.

A spokeswoman for the Irish Department of Defence, which owns the ship, said all are safe and well.

The ship sank shortly before 9am UK and Irish time.

“At around 2am in the Bay of Biscay, the Asgard started taking on water and the captain made a decision to evacuate the ship,” she said.

“They were evacuated in two lifeboats and were rescued by the French coastguard.

“Everybody is safe and well and are now currently in Belle Ile in the Bay of Biscay.”

The Asgard II, while owned by the Republic of Ireland, is not a naval vessel and is used to train aspiring civilian sailors.

Four of the crew are Irish and one is from the UK, while 18 of the trainees are Irish, one is Italian and another from the UK, according to the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs.

Four of the trainees are between 16 and 20 while the remainder are aged from their 20s to mid-60s, the Irish Department of Defence said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said officials from the Irish embassy in Paris would be travelling to meet those rescued.

The Irish Defence Forces said the naval ship LE Niamh was on its way to the area.

It is not yet known what caused the ship to get into difficulties.

Designed specially for sail training purposes, the vessel was built in Arklow, Co Wicklow, and commissioned there on March 7, 1981.

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