British in rescue bid for stranded Polish ship

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The British coastguard said Friday it had launched an operation to assist a Polish sailing ship carrying 47 people, including teenagers, after a mast broke in heavy winds off southwest England.

The Fryderyk Chopin sail training ship requested help at about 8:00 am (0700 GMT) and said it was in danger of losing one of its two masts in a severe gale, the coastguard said.

Ships in the area headed for the scene and the Royal Navy sent a helicopter.

The sailing ship was located about 100 miles (160 kilometres) southwest of the Isles of Scilly, according to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which said three vessels were on route to help out but were several hours away.

"There are currently 47 people aboard the training vessel, including some teenagers," said a coastguard spokesman.

"No injuries have been incurred and the vessel is awaiting tow. We are constantly monitoring the situation and staying in touch with the master."

The Royal Navy confirmed it had joined the rescue, saying arrangements were being put into place to try to tow the 180-foot (55-metre) Fryderyk Chopin to safety.

It was the second major maritime incident in the area in the space of three days. More than 100 crew of a Faroe Islands-registered factory fishing ship had to be rescued on Wednesday after a fire broke out on board.

The ship had been operating southwest of the Isles of Scilly.

© 2010 AFP

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