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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 March 2006, 12:20 GMT
'All saved' as Canada ferry sinks
Lifejackets from the Queen of the North float in the water near the Canadian coastguard vessel WE Ricker
A Canadian coastguard vessel searched the waters for survivors
All 101 passengers and crew have been rescued from a sinking ferry off Canada's coast, officials believe.

Ferry officials said two passengers who remained unaccounted for had probably made their own way to the town of Prince Rupert.

Police are treating the disappearance of the pair as a missing persons' case.

The British Columbia ferry is thought to have struck a rock near Gil Island, 80 miles (129 km) south of Prince Rupert, on Wednesday morning.

Ferry officials said all those aboard were evacuated to lifeboats before the 125m (410ft) vessel went down.

British Columbia Ferries president said it was a "miracle" no-one had been killed or seriously injured.

A ferry company statement said there were unconfirmed reports that the two missing passengers had got off rescue vessels at Hartley Bay and were making their own way back to Prince Rupert.

The ferry was sailing through the Inside Passage, on a 15-hour journey from Prince Rupert to Vancouver Island, when it went down at about 0025 (0825 GMT).

'Loud crash'

Passengers described watching from lifeboats as the Queen of the North sank in less than an hour.

"We heard a crashing noise and the ship went to one side," said Lawrence Papineau, quoted by the Associated Press news agency.

"Then it was a louder crash... and then everybody realised what was happening and the sirens went off."

The passengers were transferred from the life-rafts to local boats - some sent from a remote indigenous village which had heard the ship's distress call - and carried to shore.

Several people with minor injuries were flown by helicopter to Prince Rupert.

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