19 Apr 2011

27 Japanese fishermen rescued off Guam just before their vessel explodes

9:13 am on 19 April 2011

Twenty-seven Japanese fishermen had a lucky escape east of Guam after their vessel caught fire.

The US Coast Guard in Guam was yesterday notified by the Japan Coast Guard that the Daichi Shoei Maru was in trouble - more than 800 kilometres off the coast of Guam.

Search and Rescue specialist, Lee Putnam, says they located a merchant vessel in the area, the South Islander, which was willing to respond.

He says the crew were lucky they abandoned the ship when they did.

"It got fairly dramatic towards the end. Just after the last of the crewmen departed the vessel into the liferafts and the liferafts got away from the vessel there were a number of explosions on the vessel. Last report was that Shoei Maru burnt to the waterline."

Lee Putnam says the South Islander, a Panamanian flagged ship, then picked up the men and they are now on the way to Solomon Islands.