Sailors rescued after eight days in life-raft

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The Independent Online

Five people were rescued by coastguards today after spending eight days at sea in a life-raft.

Five people were rescued by coastguards today after spending eight days at sea in a life-raft.

The survivors were picked up off the coast of Cornwall this morning and are being treated in hospital, a coastguard spokesman said.

The five seamen and their vessel, which had left Ireland, had been reported missing after it did not arrive at its destination in France.

No emergency signal had been reported by coastguards until this morning when one of the survivors used a mobile phone once they got near enough to land to get a reception, a spokesman said.

Falmouth coastguard watch manager Martin Bidmead said: "Considering the weather conditions over the past week we consider these survivors to be very lucky. No distress alert was received from the vessel prior to the mobile telephone call."

The emergency call was made at 9.18am. The life-raft was located off Trevose Head by a helicopter and the crew were taken to the Royal Cornwall Hospital at Treliske.

A spokesman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said it was not clear what had happened to their boat, the 60ft Inis Mil.

A search for the Inis Mil had been under way for five days after it failed to arrive at its destination, the spokesman added.

Irish, British, French and Channel Island search and rescue authorities had been involved, he said.

A spokeswoman for the RNLI said lifeboats from Newquay and Padstow were launched and a Royal Navy helicopter was scrambled from nearby RNAS Culdrose.

The five men, who are thought to be suffering from hypothermia, were airlifted and taken to hospital.

"They seem to be suffering from hypothermia and they were very hungry but fortunately they are not too badly off," the spokeswoman said.

"It's been fairly blustery and stormy off the South West coast, so they are lucky to be alive."

She said the vessel, a converted ketch, is believed to have sunk.