Kent

Seven rescued as cargo ship sinks off Ramsgate

Helicopter Image copyright Coastguard
Image caption The coastguard said teams were sent following a Mayday alert

Seven people have been rescued from life rafts in the sea after abandoning a sinking cargo ship near Kent.

An extensive rescue operation was carried out overnight by search teams after the boat went down about 35 nautical miles (40 miles) off Ramsgate.

Rescue helicopters, a lifeboat, and Dutch helicopter and several merchant vessels all came to the aid of the sinking 90m-long vessel.

Coastguards said the crew sent a Mayday alert before abandoning the ship.

Ian Guy, from the UK coastguard, said an emergency call came shortly before midnight.

'Crew ended up in sea'

"They were taking on water rapidly and planning to abandon the ship," he said.

"When they made the call, I understand the boat was already going under and by the time they finished the call, they didn't make it to the life rafts.

"The boat was under the water and they were themselves in the water."

He said the crew managed to get on the life rafts from where they were rescued, but added they had all been in the sea in January and were airlifted to hospital with potential hypothermia but no serious injuries.

Weather conditions were "challenging" with severe gale-force winds, he added.

Ships nearby managed to reach the stranded crew first, but a merchant ship near the scene was unable to deploy its fast rescue inflatable craft because of the conditions.

It is not yet clear whether it was the weather or another problem which caused the ship to sink, or whether any cargo was on board.

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