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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 January, 2004, 00:42 GMT
Three rescued from capsized ship
Capsized Rocknes
Many of the ship's crew were flung into the port's icy waters
Three Filipino crew members have been pulled alive from the hull of a freighter that capsized in a fjord near the Norwegian port of Bergen.

Hours after the accident, rescuers were able to free the trapped sailors by drilling through the hull of the Norwegian-owned Rocknes.

Eleven other crew members were rescued earlier, but two have since died.

The ship's captain is among 16 crew members still missing, possibly trapped inside the overturned vessel.

Witnesses said the ship capsized in a matter of minutes. It is now lying upturned in icy waters, though rescue workers were able to drag the vessel to shallower waters.

The BBC's Lars Bevanger in Oslo says it has been a spectacular rescue operation, but the work has been hard and dangerous.

Morse code

Rescuers were able to locate the three crew members, who were in an air pocket, after hearing cries and banging from inside the vessel.

They managed to communicate using Morse code and then cut a hole to get them out.

The Filipinos were then taken to a decompression chamber at a nearby navy headquarters.

The rescue of the three Filipinos raised hopes that more crew members would be found alive.

"We hope to find some more," Trygve Hillestad, head of the local police, told AFP news agency.

Of the 30 crew members, most were Filipino.

Icy conditions

Anders Bang-Andersen, of the Rescue Co-ordination Centre for southern Norway, said because it the accident happened close to land, local boats were able to join in the rescue.

The 166-metre (550 feet) long freighter sent out a distress call before it capsized about 200 metres from the western island of Bjoroey at about 1630 on Monday (1530GMT).

The MS Rocknes is a bulk carrier that had been loaded with heavy rocks bound for Emden in northern Germany, after loading in the Norwegian port of Eikefet.

Boats were sent to the scene of the accident in the Raune fjord. Our correspondent says the water has frozen in the sub-zero conditions and made the hull of the boat as slippery as a skating rink.

The Rocknes is three-years-old and was found to be safe by Norwegian maritime authorities last summer. There has been no word on the cause of the accident.

The BBC's Linden Kemkaran
"Battling against the elements and the sub-zero temperatures"

Country profile: Norway
16 Jul 03  |  Country profiles

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