Four passengers airlifted from fire-hit North Sea ferry

LONDON (AFP) - A fire broke out late Saturday on a ferry in the North Sea, causing four people to be airlifted to hospital suffering from smoke inhalation, British officials and media said.

Two Royal Air Force (RAF) search and rescue helicopters and two lifeboats were scrambled to evacuate passengers after the blaze off the coast of Yorkshire in northern England.

Four people were winched into one of the helicopters and taken to hospital, according to RAF squadron leader Dave Webster, who said the fire had now been extinguished.

Some 946 passengers were on board the ferry operated by DFDS Seaways, which was travelling between Newcastle and Amsterdam in the Netherlands, Sky News reported.

"There was some kind of fire involving an accommodation area that had been tackled," Webster told the broadcaster, adding that the blaze was now "completely out".

He added: "As we speak we should be seeing the first aircraft clearing the area with four people heading for hospital to treat them for smoke inhalation." The Royal National Lifeboat Institute tweeted that two of its lifeboats had been launched "to assist with rescue operation of passengers from ferry on fire near Flamborough".

The ferry was located around 42 to 48km off Flamborough Head in Yorkshire, Webster said.