Boats rescue 117 from burning ferry

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More than 100 people were rescued from a burning ferry yesterday soon after it had left Guernsey in the Channel Islands.

Guernsey police said the 111 passengers and six crew on board the Trident Seven catamaran ship, owned by France's Emeraud line, were safely evacuated by a variety of private and commercial boats which were alerted when fire broke out in the ferry's engine room, belching smoke.

The crew raised the alarm shortly before 5pm local time when it was half a mile east of St Peter Port, in Guernsey, according to a spokesman at the harbour office.

An 88-year-old French woman was taken to Princess Elizabeth Hospital, in St Peter Port, with leg injuries and a suspected broken arm.

A spokesman for Guernsey police said the passengers were mainly British and French day-trippers.

The ferry, which was towed into port, had been bound for nearby Jersey. All the passengers were ashore within an hour. The ferry was then towed into port where the blaze was brought under control.

Two off-duty Guernsey ambulancemen, Peter Blake and John Lenoury, were aboard one of the craft which went to the rescue of the passengers aboard the Trident Seven ferry.

As they approached Trident Seven "you could see smoke and flames blowing away from the stern", Mr Blake said. "Some of the passengers on the deck were quite frightened, and some were in tears. But others seemed to be quite calm."

Local firefighters were ferried out to the stricken vessel, and the fire was put out. The ferry was towed to St Peter Port.

A spokesman for the fire service said marine experts would today to investigate the blaze.