Ships collide off Dutch coast, one sinking: Coast Guard

Dutch sea rescue services launched a major rescue operation Wednesday after two ships collided in a busy North Sea shipping lane off the coast of Rotterdam with one ship sinking, a Coast Guard spokesman said.

"A helicopter is at the scene and two rescue ships are on their way while other ships in the area are also helping," Peter Verburg of the Dutch Coast Guard told AFP.

"The crew of the Baltic Ace have launched their life rafts and are in the water, being picked up by helicopter," he said, adding "she is in danger of sinking and in deep trouble".

It was unknown if there were any injuries.

The collision happened at around 7:15 pm (1815 GMT) when the Bahaman-registered autoship Baltic Ace and the Corvus J out of Cyprus crashed into each other about 100 kilometres (60 miles) off Rotterdam.

The cause of the collision was unknown.

The shipping lane where the accident happened is one of the busiest in the North Sea and an important passing point for ships sailing into the Rotterdam port, Europe's largest and the fifth-largest in the world.

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