British police arrest two men over North Sea ferry fire

LONDON (Reuters) - British police said on Sunday they had arrested two men after a suspected arson attack on a ferry in the North Sea carrying more than 1,000 people from Newcastle in England to Amsterdam.

Police said the incident occurred late on Saturday night on board the MS King Seaways, a ship operated by Denmark's DFDS Seaways, after a passenger set fire to a cabin in circumstances that remained unclear.

Local media said the vessel was about 50km off the English coast at the time.

Up to seven people, most of them crew members, had been taken by helicopter to a hospital in the English town of Scarborough where they were treated for smoke inhalation, the police said.

"Two men have been arrested - a 26-year-old man on suspicion of arson and a 28-year-old man on suspicion of affray," Britain's Northumbria police force said in a statement. "Both are currently helping police with inquiries."

DFDS, which operates the daily service from the North Shields port near Newcastle to IJmuiden near Amsterdam, said in a statement that crew members had put the fire out within 15 minutes.

It said the vessel, which has since returned to England, had been carrying 946 passengers and 127 crew members, adding that 15 passengers and eight crew were thought to have suffered smoke-related injuries. None of the injures was reported to be serious.

Many of the passengers were Britons planning to celebrate New Year's Eve in the Netherlands.

DFDS said on its web site that its Newcastle-Amsterdam service scheduled for later on Sunday would operate as normal, but that its Amsterdam-Newcastle service on Sunday had been cancelled due to the incident.

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