12/01/2005

Helicopter dispatched to rescue crew of Spanish fishing boat

A Coastguard helicopter has been dispatched to rescue 19 crew aboard a stricken Spanish fishing vessel, which is in difficulties 180 miles west of the Isle of Lewis.

Earlier today an RAF Nimrod aircraft located the FV Cibeles, in the same area as the signal from an emergency radio beacon, after voice contact with the vessel had been lost.

All of the fishing vessel's crew – five Spaniards and 14 Portuguese men - were reported to have been accounted for following the search, which was coordinated by Stornoway Coastguard.

At around 11:30pm last night the coastguard received a satellite distress alert from the Cibeles. The vessel's agents confirmed that they last made contact with the Cibeles at around 8:30pm but they had not been able to establish contact since. The boat's sister ship, the Marazul, which is in the same area, also had been unable to make contact.

The owners and agents of the FV Cibeles had arranged for a tanker, the Aegean Spirit, to be sent to the scene and she has since arrived and is providing shelter for the vessel before the crew are rescued.

The weather in the area has been atrocious, with winds reaching gale force and mountainous seas, although it has now abated slightly.

Simon Riley, District Operations Manager, Stornoway Coastguard said: "A decision has been made to evacuate the crew of this fishing vessel during daylight hours as the tanker is unable to take the vessel under tow and the nearest vessel that would be able to tow it, is a considerable distance from the Cibeles."

He added: "Our prime concern is for the safety of the nineteen crew."

(KMcA/SP)

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