Page last updated at 18:57 GMT, Friday, 19 February 2010

Canadians rescued after ship sinks off Brazil

Concordia docked
The Concordia takes students on long educational voyages

All 64 passengers and crew of a Canadian sailing ship that sank in high winds have been rescued from life rafts off the coast of Brazil.

A distress signal was picked up from the three-masted SV Concordia around 1700 (1900 GMT) on Thursday.

A Brazilian Air Force plane spotted the rafts from the Concordia floating about 300 miles off the coast of Rio de Janeiro three hours later.

The passengers and crew were plucked from the sea early on Friday.

"Everyone aboard the ship has been rescued - they've all been accounted for," said a Brazilian Navy official.

Nobody on board was injured and Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon thanked Brazilian authorities for leading the search and rescue operation.

'Heartbreaking loss'

West Island College International in Nova Scotia, which owns the vessel, said it had been on a 10-month voyage when it capsized.

The Concordia had left north-east Brazil on 8 February and had been due to dock in the Uruguayan port of Montevideo next Tuesday.

It left Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, last September with senior high school and university students on West Island's Class Afloat programme.

Most of the passengers were Canadian, with others from the US, Mexico, Japan and elsewhere.

A former student on the vessel, who was later a crew member, said he was shocked at the loss of the Concordia.

"As with many Class Afloat alumni, I consider the experience to be a defining moment in my life and the loss of Concordia is heartbreaking - like the loss of a friend," Sam Carson from the London area told the BBC.

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