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Rescue from fire at sea

Calcutta/Midnapore, June 2: Ten members of a cargo ship’s crew were rescued from the high seas today, four days after the ship had caught fire, forcing them to abandon it about 225 nautical miles from Haldia.

Five crew members ' the ship’s captain P.P. Shelley, his wife, their two children and the chief operator ' are still missing.

The 10 castaways, some in lifeboats and the rest in life jackets, were rescued by a Coast Guard ship this evening about 150 nautical miles from Sandhead and were being brought to Calcutta.

“They looked famished and could hardly speak or wave when we spotted them,” said Coast Guard commandant G. Singh. “We are looking for five more members of the crew, who have probably drifted away.”

MV Faiz, a 53-metre-long ship, had set sail from Yangon last Friday carrying 783 tonnes of pulses. On May 30, a day before it was to reach Calcutta port, communications with the ship snapped.

“We were extremely worried the moment we learnt that,” Pervez Rehman, the owner of ITP Shipping Company to which the cargo ship belongs, said in Calcutta.

“Coast Guard officials later informed us that a huge fire had broken out on the ship. We are still waiting for reports on the extent of damage.”

Around 6.30 am on May 31, a Dornier aircraft of the Coast Guard spotted smoke billowing from MV Faiz.

“It seems the accommodation cabins and the engine room are destroyed,” the pilot had radioed. “I can see thick smoke coming out of the ship. There are no survivors.”

“The ship is going adrift, north-west of the present location,” another Dornier pilot reported yesterday while looking for survivors.

Worried Coast Guard officials and the navy began searching for other ships that might be in the vicinity of the cargo vessel. MV Vijay Lakshmi, which was 32 nautical miles from the burning ship, was asked to rush to the spot and look for survivors. It sighted MV Faiz today, drifting northwest about 150 nautical miles from Sandhead.

A closer look by MV Vijay Lakshmi revealed that the cabins and engine room were completely burnt down.

“There do not seem to be any survivors on board,” MV Vijay Lakshmi’s commander reported.

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