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Thirty-four people are unaccounted for and feared dead following a raging fire on a boat off Santa Cruz island in California, officials said Monday.
The dozens of passengers were likely sleeping in a berthing area when the inferno broke out around 3:15 a.m. local time, US Coast Guard Senior Chief Aaron Bemis said on CNN.
“The report that we got was they were trapped by the fire,” Bemis told the network.
Photos of the rescue efforts show the 75-foot commercial diving vessel, named Conception, completely engulfed in flames amid the dark night sky.
Bemis said the stubborn blaze was extinguished several times but reignited, possibly because of the amount of fuel on board.
“The fire was so intense, even after it was put out, we were not able to embark on the vessel and look for survivors,” he said.
Five crew members who were in a main cabin were rescued.
The Ventura County Fire Department said the 34 passengers had died, KTLA reported — but Bemis wouldn’t confirm the staggering death toll.
“I am not aware of any survivors at this time,” he said, while cautioning that “it’s too early to tell.”
The Coast Guard’s Los Angeles branch tweeted that it was called in to help local agencies in rescuing “more than 30 people in distress” early Monday.
“The group of crew members has been rescued (one with minor injuries) and efforts continue to evacuate the remaining passengers,” the Coast Guard said.
The boat is based in Santa Barbara Harbor, CNN reported, and had left Saturday for a three-day cruise.