Asia

Three believed dead in S Korean boat fire in Antarctic

Jeong Woo 2. File photo
Image caption The Jeong Woo 2 issued a distress call early on Wednesday

Three crew members are thought to have died on a South Korean fishing boat that caught fire in Antarctica.

"Three crew members are still missing and are believed to have died in the fire in the vessel's accommodation block,'' the New Zealand Rescue Coordination Centre said.

Another 37 fishermen were rescued - seven sustained burn injuries, two of which were serious.

The 51-metre (167ft) Jeong Woo 2 issued a distress call early on Wednesday.

It got into trouble in the Ross Sea, about 600km (375 miles) north of the US McMurdo Antarctic base.

Two other South Korean fishing vessels rushed to evacuate the crew members.

They were being medically assessed and would be transferred to the US research ship Nathaniel B. Palmer, which was ''steaming north to meet them'', said the New Zealand rescue authorities.

The two rescue boats remain stuck due to ice and fog conditions, it added.

The Nathaniel B. Palmer has medical facilities on board and will sail to the McMurdo base, where flights to New Zealand are available.

The incident happened about 3,700km (2,000 miles) south-east of New Zealand.

The weather in the area is calm and relatively mild, according to a Reuters report. Ships in the area would usually be fishing for toothfish, a valuable species known as the ''white gold'' of the Southern Ocean.

The Jeong Woo 2 was built in Japan and is registered in Busan, South Korea, according to the Associated Press News Agency.

Last month, a Russian fishing boat hit an iceberg in ice-filled waters off Antarctica, leaving its 32-member crew stranded for 12 days.

The Sparta was eventually repaired and managed to sail into a New Zealand port.

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