Crew rescued from swamped North Sea rig

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Nineteen crew members were evacuated from a mobile rig in the North Sea today after becoming swamped by the rising tide, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said.

The jack-up rig Vagant - a mobile platform which is able to stand on the sea floor - had stuck fast and, with the tide rising, the decision was taken to evacuate crew members to a stand-by vessel, the Dutch Pearl.

The owner of the platform, which is carrying out surveys for a wind farm in Tees Bay, is based in Belgium.

A lifeboat from Hartlepool was launched and transferred 16 members of the crew, which is made up of Lithuanian, Irish, Dutch, Belgian, Portuguese and English nationals, to Teesport.

Humber Coastguard received a call shortly before 3.30am and coastguard rescue teams from Hartlepool and Redcar were alerted to assist with the reception of evacuated casualties ashore, the Coastguard said.

Three rig crew members remained on the stand-by vessel and will return to the rig at low tide to attempt to free her from the seabed.

A full assessment of any pollution threat to the environment will be carried out.

Watch Manager Drew Mahood said: "The initial evacuation was handled quickly and efficiently by the rig's own stand-by vessel.

"Without the swift action taken by the Dutch Pearl, the rig crew would certainly have been faced with a life-threatening scenario. As it is, most of them are now safely ashore and being looked after by their parent company.

"At this time we believe that there is no resultant pollution but we will continue to monitor the situation closely and act accordingly."

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