The merchant ship up in flames.
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Kolkata: A joint operation by the Coast Guard and the Navy today saved the lives of 22 crew members from a merchant ship that went up in flames while sailing to Kolkata in the Bay of Bengal.

The rescued crew members of MV Kolkata has been brought to the Haldia Coast Guard base in a recuse boat tonight. The Coast Guard authorities have said that all of them are safe.

The ill-fated ship MV Kolkata, however, has suffered over 70 per cent burns and is likely get grounded in the sea, defence ministry officials said.

The fire in MV Kolkata broke out around midnight yesterday in mid sea when the ship was some 55 nautical miles away from the nearest sands head at Sagar Island in South 24-Parganas. It was loaded with goods containers.

The crew of the ship sent out an SOS call to the Coast Guard at Haldia in East Midnapore. The Coast Guard pressed its ship ICG Rajkiran at the first light of the day but it could not get close to the MV Kolkata as the flames were raging through.

The defence ministry spokesperson in Kolkata, Wing Commander SS Birdi said that the fire was so massive that the Coast Guard had sought assistance from the Navy and two rescue aircraft ~ a Sea king 42C helicopter and a Dornier ~ were sent out from the Eastern Naval Command at Vizag in Andhra Pradesh.

However, before the two Navy aircraft could reach the spot in the sea where MV Kolkata was burning adrift, Coast Guard rescue ship managed to locate it and start a rescue operation for the crew member. The two aircraft were sent back to Vizag from Bhubaneswar.

It is not yet clear as to what caused the fire in the merchant ship that was carrying goods to Kolkata.

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