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3 believed dead, 37 rescued after Korean fishing boat catches fire near Antarctica
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) ' Three crew members aboard a South Korean fishing boat near Antarctica are believed to have died when a fire raged through their quarters early Wednesday.
Another 37 crew were rescued from the flaming ship, according to the Rescue Coordination Centre of New Zealand. Two of those rescued suffered extensive burns while another five suffered moderate burns. The vessel was continuing to burn Wednesday and appeared to be sinking, according to the center.
Center spokeswoman Sharon Cuzens said the 167-foot (51-meter) Jung Woo 2 sent out a distress call early Wednesday and two nearby fishing vessels rushed to help out.
Three of the injured crew needed to be moved by crane onto the rescue boats, Cuzens said. She said a U.S. research vessel with onboard medical facilities is steaming toward the fishing boats to treat the injured crew. It is expected to arrive Wednesday evening.
Australian records show the Jung Woo 2 is owned by the Sunwoo Corporation and is licensed to fish for Chilean sea bass, crab and other bottom fish. The ship was built in 1985 in Japan and is registered in Busan, South Korea.
The ship got into trouble in the Ross Sea about 370 miles (595 kilometers) north of the U.S. McMurdo Station Antarctic base.
The sister ship Jung Woo 3 and another Korean vessel, the Hong Jin 707, were able to help out. When the U.S. vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer arrives, Cuzens said, it is expected to initially treat the injured seamen and then put them ashore at McMurdo Base for more extensive help and for possible evacuation to New Zealand.
The Jung Woo 2 is the second fishing vessel within weeks to get into trouble during the Antarctic summer fishing season.
On Dec. 16, the Russian vessel Sparta hit underwater ice which tore a 1-foot (30 centimeter) hole in the hull and left the 32 crew stranded for 10 days, until rescue boats could get to it and make temporary repairs. The Sparta limped into a New Zealand port earlier this week.