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Wednesday, November 11, 1998 Published at 11:15 GMT


UK Navy saves Nicaraguans

The reasons why the fishing boat overturned are unclear

A Royal Navy ship helping in the Hurricane Mitch relief effort has rescued 34 fishermen whose boat capsized in the Caribbean, a Royal Marines captain said.

George Eykyn reports on the rescue mission from HMS Ocean
The HMS Ocean, a helicopter carrier, came across an overturned lobster boat 35 miles (55 kilometres) off the Nicaraguan coast with 19 men clinging to its sides.

Within hours of the mishap - which was not caused by Hurricane Mitch - another 15 people were plucked from the water.

[ image: HMS Ocean is stationed off the coast of Nicaragua]
HMS Ocean is stationed off the coast of Nicaragua
The ship's captain, Matt Hood, said: "It's very fortuitous that we were about.

"The reasons why she overturned are unclear."

Nicaraguan Defence Minister, Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, is reported to have personally thanked both the UK ambassador to Nicaragua and the ship's captain.

Help from the UK Marines and the Navy came after a request from Honduran and Nicaraguan authorities for assistance in the wake of the devastation caused by Hurricane Mitch.

[ image: The fishermen thanked the crew as they left HMS Ocean]
The fishermen thanked the crew as they left HMS Ocean
HMS Sheffield and the Royal Auxiliary ship Sir Tristram have joined HMS Ocean in the international rescue operation.

John Spellar, the UK's Under Secretary of State for Defence, said: "The mission of our forces is to save lives where they can. They will co-operate closely with US, Dutch and other forces involved in the relief effort.

"We hope that we can make a difference during this initial phase in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane so that aid agencies and departments can then help the people of Honduras and Nicaragua to start rebuilding their countries."

Hurricane Mitch is believed to have claimed at least 11,000 lives during its rampage across Central America, laying waste to huge tracts of land and setting the affected countries back 50 years.

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