BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – A raging fire aboard an Argentine navy icebreaker forced 296 crew and military personnel to abandon ship in the South Atlantic, where they spent hours in lifeboats before being rescued by the crews of an oil tanker and a fishing vessel, the military said Wednesday.
The fire broke out in the Almirante Irizar's generator compartment late Tuesday, and Capt. Guillermo Tarapow ordered all aboard to abandon ship in 24 lifeboats when the flames became uncontrollable.
An oil tanker and a fishing vessel rushed to the area and plucked the crew from chilly South Atlantic waters off the remote Patagonian city of Puerto Madryn, 930 miles south of the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires. The military did not report any injuries and didn't give a cause for the fire.
All were eventually plucked up by the Panamanian-flagged tanker Scarlet Ibis and an Uruguayan fishing vessel that had rushed to the area, located some 40 miles off Puerto Madryn, the statement said.
On Wednesday, navy planes overflew the stricken icebreaker and authorities said the coast guard ship Thompson and a navy ship Granville were speeding to the area.
The Almirante Irizar was built in Finland and acquired by the Argentine navy in 1978. Measuring 119 yards in length, it has played key roles in Argentina's annual supply runs to Antarctica in the warmer southern hemisphere summer that begins each December.
The ship had restocked more than a dozen Argentine bases and research stations, and was returning to Buenos Aires with armed forces personnel who had concluded stints in Antarctica, when the fire broke out.