Maersk container catches fire, 4 missing

Maersk container catches fire, 4 missing

A huge merchant vessel carrying over 7,000 containers caught fire off the Lakshadweep Islands in the Arabian Sea along the south-western coast.

There were 27 crew members on board Maersk Honam, of which 23 have been rescued.

Massive efforts have been launched by the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) to look for the four missing crew members and contain the fire. Among the four missing is an Indian.

The Singapore-flagged 330-mts-long container ship Maersk Honam had left Singapore on March 1 and was having passage to Suez. It caught fire with flames from the main deck rising up to the ship's bridge, at a height of about 25 metres.

The Mumbai-based Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) of the ICG received a distress message at 9.45 pm on Tuesday night about the ship catching fire. It alerted all merchant ships near the location through the satellite-based communication network, International Safety Net.

The ship was at a distance of 570 km (340 nautical miles) from Agatti in Lakshwadeep Islands. From Mumbai, the reported distance is nearly 1,200 km.

"Search and rescue operations have been launched... our priority is to rescue them," Inspector General KR Nautiyal, Coast Guard Commander (West), told reporters in Mumbai.

Simultaneously, ICGS Shoor, an offshore patrol vessel with fire-fighting equipment patrolling near Lakshadweep Islands, was diverted for assisting the vessel.

The coast guard plans to press in their Dornier D 228 maritime reconnaissance aircraft from Agatti Island for search and rescue.

The nationalities of the 27 crew members are: India (13), the Philippines (9), Romania (1), South Africa (1), Thailand (2) and the United Kingdom (1).

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