LONDON: The coastguard launched a major rescue effort Wednesday for the 111 crew aboard a blazing factory fishing vessel off southwest England.
Most of the crew had taken to liferafts after the ship, the "Athena", caught fire 230 miles (370 kilometres) southwest of the Isles of Scilly, the coastguard said.
"There are 81 persons in life rafts with 30 people remaining on the ship fighting the fire," a coastguard spokesman said.
The Maritime and Coastguard agency said a container ship had responded to a distress call and was attempting to take on board the crew, a mix of Chinese, Russians, Peruvians and Scandinavians.
The coastguard in Falmouth, on the southwest English mainland, was alerted to the fire shortly after 6:00 am (0500 GMT) and was coordinating the rescue operation.
"The Master of the 'Athena' evacuated 81 non-essential personnel to liferafts whilst his remaining crew continued to fight the fire which is located in the port-side forward processing area of the vessel," the coastguard said.
"The Master has indicated that the fire is lessening, although it is not out yet."
A French rescue plane was providing a communications link to the scene and a Royal Navy helicopter flew from England to the Scillies to refuel in order to take part in the rescue.
The Athena is owned by a shipping company based in the Faroe Islands.