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Sunday, 7 July, 2002, 21:15 GMT 22:15 UK
Battle to save stricken warship
HMS Nottingham
HMS Nottingham was returning from a deployment
The crew of a Royal Navy destroyer battled to save her after she hit rocks off the coast of Australia.

HMS Nottingham started taking on water after Sunday's accident, which happened in poor weather.

The 3,500 tonne vessel is now anchored off the rocks while divers wait for first light to examine the hull for damage.


We have no idea how much water is on board or the extent of the damage

Ben Mitchell, Australia Search and Rescue
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said the ship had been made stable, and there were no casualties.

The accident happened two miles east of Lord Howe island - 300 miles north east of Sydney in the Tasman Sea.

The Royal Australian Air Force is preparing to fly out heavy pumping equipment to the vessel from the mainland.

"She has taken on water. There is a fair bit of flooding, we are trying to find out just how much there is," the MoD spokesman said.

'Substantial collision'

The vessel, with 253 crew on board, was on a routine trip from Cairns, in Queensland, north-east Australia, to Wellington, in New Zealand.

Commander David Heley, from the MoD, said the "substantial collision" happened shortly after a minor medical transfer to Lord Howe Island and the ship immediately dropped anchor.

However, he said it was "fruitless" to speculate on the causes until a Royal Navy inquiry had been completed.

The officer said Nottingham's commanding officer Richard Farrington had been in charge of the ship for 18 months to two years and would be in "good hands".

"He's a cool, phlegmatic individual. Obviously, this will be a major challenge but I have every reason to suspect he'll handle this incident with great professionalism."

Ben Mitchell, of Australia Search and Rescue, said the situation was a lot better than first feared when it was reported at 2120 local time.

'Under control'

"At that stage the situation was extremely serious and there were concerns the ship may sink," he said.

"Some consideration was given to beaching the vessel to prevent it sinking. The ship had been holed but the crew managed to stem the inflow of water and they got the situation under control.

"We have no idea how much water is on board or the extent of the damage and have no other details about why it happened or how."

Mr Mitchell said the incident had generated a lot of interest.

"We've had a lot of calls about this - it's not every day that a Royal Navy ship runs aground."

Lord Howe island is a sliver of land just one kilometre wide and 14 km long, surrounded by coral reef.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jake Lynch
"She grounded with a crunching impact"
Royal Navy Commander David Heley
"A very difficult situation"
Aus Maritime Safety Authority's David Grey
"They have anchored... in a protected area"
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