Nine dead, one missing in S. Korea fishing boat fire

SEOUL (AFP) - Nine people died after jumping off a fishing boat that caught fire off South Korea's west coast early Saturday, with efforts underway to rescue one missing crew member, a report said.

The 20-ton vessel caught fire off the port city of Gunsan, forcing 11 crew to plunge into freezing sea waters to avoid flames and smoke, Yonhap news agency said, citing local police.

Ten crew were plucked from the water by rescuers but nine of them were pronounced dead later.

"It seems that many of the people jumping into the sea died because of hypothermia caused by excessively low water temperature," a police officer was quoted as saying by Yonhap.

Police were investigating the exact cause of the fire, with efforts underway to hunt for one missing crew member, Yonhap said.