A senior Lebanese army officer says a ship carrying 83 crew members has sunk off the Lebanese coast in stormy weather.

The officer says the Panama-flagged ship sent a distress call Thursday afternoon and a Lebanese navy ship was dispatched, but by the time rescuers arrived the ship had sunk 11 miles off the coast.

He says two crew members have been rescued. A civilian vessel and a ship from a U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon were also called to help. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media.

He said the army believes the ship was heading to or coming from the Syrian port of Tartous.

He said Britain was asked to send two helicopters from Cyprus.