Rescuers were scrambling Monday to reach more than 30 people who were sleeping below deck when their scuba-diving boat caught fire off the California coast, with reports of “numerous fatalities.”
A major rescue operation was underway for the dozens of people trapped aboard the 75-foot (22-meter) boat, near Santa Cruz Island off the coast from Los Angeles, the Coast Guard tweeted.
Bill Nash, a spokesperson for Ventura County, told CNN many people were feared dead.
“It’s a large boat, and we know we have numerous fatalities. I don’t have an exact number,” Nash said.
But US Coast Guard chief Aaron Bemis, also on CNN, said: “Right now we can’t confirm any fatalities.”
“The five crew members were able to disembark because they were in the main cabin,” he said. “The 34 passengers were below decks. The report we got was they were trapped by the fire.”
“The fire was so intense that even after it was put out, we’re not able to actually embark the vessel and, you know, look for survivors at this point.”
“It’s still ongoing.”