Saturday, November 24, 2007

Damaged Antarctic cruise ship sinks

A cruise ship which was carrying more than 100 holidaymakers, including 24 Britons, when it struck an iceberg in freezing Antarctic waters has sunk.

The ice punched a hole in the 2,400-tonne liner, the MV Explorer, which began taking on water, forcing passengers and crew to flee on life rafts. All passengers escaped safely.

An international rescue operation involving coastguards on three continents was launched as the stricken ship was left listing at an angle of 45 degrees in the Bransfield Strait off the remote King George Island. It was about 75 miles north of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Two Chilean Air Force Hercules C130 transport planes are on standby in the southern city of Punta Arenas to fly to Antarctica to collect the passengers.

However, due to high winds, there were not expected to leave the Chilean mainland until midday local time Saturday (1500 GMT). That would mean the earliest the passengers would arrive in Chile would be Saturday evening.

Consular officials from the countries involved are due to meet in Punta Arenas to prepare for the arrival. Meanwhile, the Chilean coastguard confirmed the ship has now sunk..........

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