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Cruise ship sinking in Antarctic waters

  • Story Highlights
  • 150 passengers evacuated from a ship after it struck object in Antarctic waters
  • Ship, named Explorer, was expected to sink, British coastguards said
  • Passengers in lifeboats, captain and first officer remain on board
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- More than 150 people have abandoned a sinking cruise liner that collided with an iceberg in Antarctic waters, a Chilean navy captain told CNN.

The ship sent out a distress call at around 10 p.m. ET Thursday.

Passenger ship Explorer reported problems near the South Shetland Islands, south of Argentina. The area is in a sector of Antarctica claimed by the United Kingdom.

Capt. Carlos Munita of the Chilean navy said they received a distress call from the Explorer, saying the vessel had hit an iceberg around 10 p.m. ET Thursday.

He added a Norwegian rescue ship had arrived at the scene.

Tour companies describe the Explorer as a passenger ship which runs tours between South America and Antarctica.

Some 154 people are reported to be on board ship, which carries a Liberian flag, including 100 passengers. However the nationalities of those on board is not yet known.

Passengers and crew have been evacuated onto lifeboats, but the captain and the first officer are reported to have stayed on board.

"The great majority of people, including all the passengers, have been safely taken off the Explorer and are now being recovered by the first of the vessels to arrive on scene in response to the distress call," Dave Jardine-Smith, head of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency's (MCA) search and rescue team in England said.

"The passengers and crew from the Explorer have not been in lifeboats very long," Jardine-Smith said. "They should be, hopefully, in good condition. We are told that there are no injuries."

Earlier, Mark Clark, a spokesman for the MCA told the Press Association five ships were on their way to help the sinking vessel.

"She hit something and is taking on a serious amount of water, that is all we know."

The temperature in the area is said to be at around minus 5C, with a sea temperature at around minus 1C, forecasters told the Press Association.

Stephen Davenport, senior forecaster with MeteoGroup, said:"It wouldn't take long for hypothermia to set in at that kind of temperature in the sea.

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"They do get very bad storms down that way, and gale force winds especially, because there is no land in the way," he told PA.

Lt. Matt Alex from the US Coast Guard Atlantic Area command center said the boat is owned by Gap Adventures, based in Toronto, Canada. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Copyright 2007 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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