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California boat fire: At least 34 missing near Santa Cruz Island

The boat in flames Image copyright EPA
Image caption The boat was totally engulfed in flames as crews tried to reach those onboard

At least 34 people are unaccounted for after a boat was destroyed by fire off the coast of California.

Five people of the 39 people on board were rescued, coastguards said. There are reports of fatalities but no official death toll so far.

The fire broke out on board the boat near Santa Cruz island in the very early hours of Monday morning.

The vessel is now submerged as a search and rescue operation continues in foggy conditions.

Coastguard services overheard a mayday call at 03:30 local time (10:30 GMT), saying that the boat was engulfed in flames, according to Captain Monica Rochester, the coastguard sector commander for Long Beach, Ventura County.

Reports say some passengers may have been trapped below deck.

Image copyright Getty/Ventura Country Fire Department
Image caption Firefighters were unable to board the vessel as the flames had already taken hold

Those who were rescued may have been sleeping in the main cabin of the boat rather than below.

They were awake before rescue teams arrived and had jumped off the bridge of the boat. One survivor has minor injuries.

The bow of vessel, a diving boat known as Conception, is still sticking out of the water.

It was used for chartered trips in the Channel Islands National Park.

It sank 20 yards (18m) off the north shore of Santa Cruz Island, at depths of 64ft (20m). The search for survivors continues.


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