One sailor has died and four others are missing after a British cargo ship sank following a collision with a vessel in the North Sea.
Germany’s Central Command for Maritime Emergencies said two sailors have been rescued but the body of one man has been recovered following the incident.
A search and rescue operation began after the British-flagged Verity hit a larger cargo ship, Polesie, about 14 miles (22.5km) south-west of the German island of Heligoland at around 5am on Tuesday.
While the larger, Bahamas-flagged Polesie stayed afloat, the Verity, which had departed from Bremen, Germany, and was destined for the port of Immingham on the east coast of England carrying steel coils, became submerged.
Shortly afterwards a signal from the ship was lost, German authorities said, and wreckage was found.
Searches are continuing involving several ships, aircraft, and a P&O cruise ship, with rescuers preparing to dive 98ft (30m) to the wreckage.
Robby Renner, Germany’s head of Central Command for Maritime Emergencies, told a news conference in Cuxhaven it is possible the remaining crew are still alive inside the sunken vessel and that his team is doing “everything humanly possible” to rescue them.
Michael Ippich, of the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service, said the water temperature at the time of collision was 12C (54F), which people can survive for about 20 hours.
Mr Ippich told reporters: “The conditions on the spot are extremely difficult.
“Because of the weather and visibility, it’s incredibly difficult to conduct such an operation.”
A spokesman for P&O Cruises told the PA news agency: “P&O Cruises’ Iona is currently involved in a search and rescue operation off the coast of Germany.
“The incident is ongoing and Iona’s co-operation complies with international maritime law as well as being consistent with the company’s moral and legal obligations.
“Iona is scheduled to be at sea today and this event should have no impact upon tomorrow’s scheduled call to Rotterdam or the onward itinerary.”
Faversham Ships Ltd, which owns the Verity, described the incident as “ongoing” and said it is working with local authorities.
A spokesman for Associated British Ports, which owns the port of Immingham, confirmed the vessel had been due to arrive there.
A source at the Foreign Office said they were not aware of any British nationals on board.
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