North Sea search for fishermen after ship saves three men

Three fishermen in a lifeboat who were rescued by crew from the Princess Cruise Lines" Pacific Princess as they drifted in the North Sea off the English coast Image copyright Alexandra Rosen
Image caption The three rescued fishermen had been in the life raft for four hours before they were spotted by the cruise ship

A major search operation is under way for two missing fishermen after their vessel sank in the North Sea.

Three other crew members were rescued from their life raft by a cruise ship after their distress flare was spotted at 18:45 BST. They had been in the raft for four hours.

A coastguard helicopter, lifeboats and vessels from an offshore gas field are searching for the two missing men.

Their fishing boat sank about 25 miles north-east of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk.

The cruise ship involved was the Pacific Princess.

Passenger Teena Dowd said the captain announced there was a life raft on the ship's starboard side.

Image copyright Alexandra Rosen
Image caption The life raft was spotted drifting in the water on the cruise liner's starboard side

Ms Dowd said concerned passengers lined the deck and clapped as the men were helped on board.

She said: "We were on the very top deck, and people were just sort of holding their breath, everybody was anxious.

"Because we all at the time thought there was only three of them, and everybody clapped when they came on the ship."

She said the captain later announced that there was a search for two more men.

Image copyright Mary Evans Picture Library
Image caption Passengers on the cruise ship applauded when three fishermen were rescued

HM Coastguard said all the men were foreign nationals.

Alexandra Rosen, another passenger on the cruise ship, said on Twitter it was allowed to continue its journey at about 21:40 BST and arrived in Dover just before 05:00 BST on Sunday.

'Early hours'

"We believe the two missing crew were seen to enter the water," said Lee Duncan, coastguard operations controller for the East Coast.

The search on Saturday night involved two coastguard helicopters, lifeboat crews from Gorleston and Caister, and a number of other boats in the area.

Image caption The search was stood down at about 03:30 BST on Sunday but resumed at first light

They were stood down at 03:30 BST, but resumed at first light.

Paul Garrod from Caister Lifeboat said: "There were supply boats around and it's not too far from the nearest gas field, so they brought some of the boats from there as well and we all searched until the early hours of the morning.

"There were 20-odd ships in the vicinity so it was a very detailed search, but all they found was some wreckage.

"They must have gone down very quickly as no mayday call was received.

"It's quite an unusual event, as boats these days should be in good working order, but it just looks like a freak accident."

Image copyright PA
Image caption The Pacific Princess rescued three fishermen from a lifeboat drifting in the North Sea off the English coast

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