Three sailors died and a further eight were missing tonight after a cargo ship collided with a container ship and sank in one of the North Sea's busiest shipping lanes.
The collision took place just off the coast of Belgium and the Netherlands shortly after 6.15pm. Thirteen crew members of the cargo ship, Baltic Ace, were rescued, but eight were still missing in freezing waters and high winds tonight.
The Dutch defence ministry said two navy patrol ships were helping in the search. "Helicopters are trying, in strong wind and high waves, to bring the people to safety," it added in a statement.
The ship had been transporting cars from Zeebrugge in Belgium to Kotka in Finland when it collided with the Cypriot-registered Corvus J, sailing from Scotland to Antwerp, Belgium. The Corvus J was said to be "badly damaged" but not in danger of sinking with its 12 crew members remaining on board. "We have found life rafts, and the people in them are being picked up by helicopters," said Peter Verburg, a spokesman for the Dutch coastguard.