Storm-hit ship adrift in Channel after dramatic rescue

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The Independent Online

Attempts will be made later today to take in tow a storm-hit cargo ship from which 20 crew were dramatically rescued in the Channel last night, said Coastguards.

The Greek-registered Ice Prince is still listing heavily and drifting around 33 miles off the south Devon coast.

Maritime and Coastguard Agency spokesman Fred Caygill said salvors were on the way to the abandoned vessel, and it was hoped they would try to take it in tow around mid-morning.

It has not been decided where the stricken ship will be taken, said Mr Caygill, adding: "It depends where we can get her in."

He said the French tug Abeille Liberte was standing by the vessel, which still had a 40-degree list and was drifting east.

Regular warnings to shipping were being broadcast from Coastguard stations, he said.

Lifeboat and helicopter crews staged a rescue after the vessel got into difficulties in high winds last night and the crew abandoned ship amid fears it might capsize after its cargo shifted.

A Portland Coastguard helicopter, India Juliet, airlifted 12 of the crew, including a 41-year-old Greek man with a broken leg, while the remaining eight were taken to safety by two volunteer RNLI lifeboat crews from Torbay and Salcombe.

They battled gale-force winds and rough seas with 16ft (5m) swells to evacuate the men in a mission one lifeboatman described as a "once-in-a-career" rescue.

The operation was co-ordinated by Brixham Coastguard in co-operation with the French authorities.

Mr Caygill said: "Twelve crew were airlifted by the Coastguard helicopter late yesterday evening to the shoreline, whilst the RNLI Torbay and Salcombe lifeboats took off the remaining eight crew.

"No further injuries apart from a few bumps and bruises have been reported. The crew taken off by helicopter have been found some accommodation locally whilst the injured man has been taken to Dorchester Hospital."

It is understood the Ice Prince's crew were all foreign nationals, and were wearing life jackets and immersion suits when rescued.

The Ice Prince, which is more than 328ft (100m) long and weighs 6,395 tonnes, sent out an emergency call at 7pm yesterday after getting into difficulties.

Crew reported that the ship was rolling heavily in very poor weather.

The Ice Prince was heading for Alexandria and was carrying 5,258 tons of sawn timber, said the MCA.