Four crew members are missing after a “serious fire” broke out on a cargo ship, authorities have said.
The Maersk Line vessel caught fire in the Arabian Sea on its route from Singapore to the Suez Canal on Tuesday.
The Danish firm said in a statement: “The crew sent out a distress signal and a total of 23 crew members were safely evacuated to the nearby vessel ALS Ceres.”
A Maersk Line spokesperson told Sky News they could not confirm whether a British crew member who was onboard is among those missing, but added that the relatives of the four yet to be found have been informed.
The spokesperson said: “What we can say is that this is a very serious fire.
“We are continuing the search and rescue operation for the four missing crew members.”
The nationalities of the other 26 members on board the Singapore-flagged vessel include 13 from India, nine from the Philippines, two from Thailand, one from Romania and another from South Africa.
The Press Trust of India news agency has said one of those missing is Indian and that authorities believe the fire started in one of the 7,860 shipping containers on the vessel.
The cause of the blaze is still unknown.
A Maersk Line spokesperson said: “At this stage we have no reason to believe the fire was caused by an error in the ship’s construction.”
They added that the fire is still burning and “the situation of the vessel is very critical”.
The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) has said the ship was near Agatti Island, some 650 nautical miles from the port city of Kochi in southern India.
The ICG said in a statement: “The ship had 27 crew members on board, of whom four are missing. Out of the 27 crew members, 13 are Indians including the captain of the ship.”
Maersk Line initially described the vessel as being 1,000 miles off the coast of Oman.
Danish TV network TV2 said the ship was carrying “dangerous cargo” but has not specified anything further.
Maersk’s chief operating officer Soren Toft the company will offer the families of missing crew members “all the support we can in this very difficult situation”.
In September, another cargo ship loaded with construction material sank off the Omani coast, though all 20 sailors on board the vessel survived.