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Container ship on fire near Lakshadweep Islands; four crew members missing

Four crew members were missing as an explosion followed by a massive fire ripped through a container ship with several Indian crew on board, off the Agatti Islands, near Lakshadweep island off the south west coast of the country an Indian Coast Guard official said.

Casualties are feared in the disaster that struck on the high seas around 9.45 p.m. on March 6th night. The cause of the incident which occurred off the south-west coast of India, is not yet known.

The Indian Coast Guard’s Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, Mumbai, received a distress call from the Singapore-flagged Container ship “Maersk Honam”.

The ship had left Singapore on March 1, on way to Suez in Egypt and has a crew of 27, including 13 Indians and the rest of different nationalities. The captain is also an Indian and the remaining crews are Philipino, British, Romanian and Thai. At the time of the distress call, the ship was at a distance of 340 nautical miles from Agatti Islands in Lakshwadeep .

The Martime Rescue Coordination Centre alerted all merchant ships near the location, through the satellite based communication network, the International Safety Net (ISN).

A merchant navy ship MV Als Cicero, which reached Maersk Honam at  late on March sixth night reported that the container vessel was blazing with flames from the main deck of the ship leaping up to the ship’s bridge height of about 25 metres. The crew had abandoned the ship as fire spread beyond their control.

Mearsk Honam had 27 crew onboard, out of which 23 have been rescued by Als Cicero. The remaining four whose nationality is not clear, are reported missing.

Simultaneously an Indian coastguard vessel ICGS Shoor, patrolling near Lakshadweep Islands was diverted to assist the distressed vessel. ICGS Shoor is an Offshore patrol vessel with specialised firefighting equipment on board.

The Coastguards had ironically planned to deploy its Dornier D-228 maritime reconnaissance aircraft from Agatti Island for search and rescue on March seventh. A spokesman of the coast guard said Search Operations are on and ICG assets have been pressed into action.

“It is our priority to save and rescue the four missing crew and also continue our efforts to salvage the vessel with assistance of specialized vessels which is being arranged in co-ordination with the Ship agency. The Coastguards have diverted four merchant navy ships near the location to assist the distressed ship.

At present, the search operation is in progress by merchant vessels Als Cicero, Seaspan Zambezi, Navigator Centauri and Al Jasrah.


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