Three crew members of a South Korean fishing boat are missing and believed to be dead after a catastrophic fire swept through the ship in Antarctic waters early Wednesday.
BBC reports that the boat, the Jung Woo 2, got into trouble in the Ross Sea about 370 miles north of the U.S. McMurdo Station Antarctic base.
Rescue coordinators said the outcome could have been much worse had it not been for two other South Korean boats in the area which managed to save 37 people from the 40-member crew.
“We’re pretty fortunate that we were able to get 37 out of 40 to safety,” said Mike Roberts, the senior search and rescue officer with the Rescue Coordination Center of New Zealand. “It was a really catastrophic event.”
Among the rescued fishermen were six South Koreans and 31 people from Indonesia, China, Russia and Vietnam. Six of the 31 were injured in the fire.
Two of the men – unconscious at the time of the rescue – have since regained consciousness, Roberts said, raising hopes they will survive their extensive burns.
Though the exact cause for the fire is still being investigated, officials say it started in the vessel’s accommodation block (living quarters) and quickly spread to the ship’s engine room and fish processing plant.
Roberts added that the fire raged out of control and that the crew’s firefighting teams could do little to halt its progress.
For more on the Antarctic fish boat fire, head over to New Zealand’s 3News.