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Rescue flight for crew after Antarctic ship blaze

12 january 2012, 18:37
The 51-metre-long South Korean fishing vessel, Jeong Woo 2, burns in the Southern Ocean. ©REUTERS/Handout
The 51-metre-long South Korean fishing vessel, Jeong Woo 2, burns in the Southern Ocean. ©REUTERS/Handout
A US Air force cargo plane was to leave New Zealand late Thursday to evacuate seven crewmen injured in a fatal fire on board a Korean fishing vessel in the Southern Ocean, AFP reports citing rescue officials.

Three Vietnamese members of the Jeong Woo 2 crew are presumed to have died in a fire that broke out in the ship's accommodation block on Tuesday night and another seven suffered burns, three of them seriously.

The injured crewmen were picked up by the US research vessel Nathaniel B Palmer and were being taken to McMurdo Base in Antarctica.

The Jeong Woo 2 was ablaze from bow to stern and rescue officials said there were plans for her sister ship, the Jeong Woo 3 to tow her outside Antarctic waters to minimise the environmental impact.

"It is not known whether the mens’ bodies will be able to be recovered at this stage, as it is currently too unsafe to go back on board," said Greg Johnston of Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ).

"Surviving crew have confirmed that the men did not make it out of the vessel’s accommodation block after the fire started."

Weather permitting, the US mercy flight will arrive in McMurdo at about 2:00am Friday (1300 GMT Thursday), a few hours before the Nathaniel B Palmer.

"The rescue mission is, however, dependent on the weather and sea conditions, with fog at McMurdo currently causing poor visibility," Johnston said.

The 30 other surviving crew, who are from South Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, China and Russia have all been taken on board the Jeong Woo 3 which will pass them on to the Korean ice-breaker Araon to take them to New Zealand.

Late last month the Araon was involved in the rescue of a Russian fishing vessel Sparta which hit an iceberg near the Antarctic ice shelf and was stranded for two weeks.

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