North Sea storm prevents rescue of sailors from blazing cargo ship

OSLO -- The 32 crew members on a Danish cargo vessel on fire in the North Sea off Norway were trapped on board on Saturday night as a storm prevented rescue helicopters from lifting sailors off.

Three helicopters were scrambled from Norway to assist the Britannia Seaways, operated by the Danish firm DFDS, about 80 miles off the town of Floroe, said Per Fjeld, a spokesman for Norway's Joint Rescue Coordination Centre.

"The first helicopter made an attempt to lift 12 of them but the attempt was abandoned because of bad weather," he said. "They are not in immediate danger."

The fire was confined to the rear of the ship and, while it was not spreading, attempts to put it out failed.

Nevertheless, the ship, which weighs 11,000 tons and is carrying military equipment from northern Norway to Bergen, was still running under its own power.

"The weather is bad and that limits our options," Fjeld said.

A severe storm, with winds gusting up to 110 mph and waves up to 50 feet high, was moving across the Norwegian Sea on Saturday night, also creating rough conditions further south in the North Sea.