Major rescue in Whitsundays

37 people were winched to safety from a sinking ketch off Australia’s northeast coast after it dragged its anchor and was swept onto rocks at the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef.

The 18m ketchRomanceended up ashore, heeling at 45 degrees. Carly Snyman, a backpacker who was aboard the yacht, said “The waves were huge, I have never seen waves that big before in my life.”

Many different attempts were made to take the passengers off the yacht. The Australian News agency AAP was told by one source that some tried to get ashore by jumping – “It was too far to jump off the rocky ledge where they had got stuck … and they actually tried to get ashore and couldn’t.”

“They launched a life raft off the vessel. That went into the rocks and it deflated straight away. They tried to get off a few times but decided to stay onboard, which was a very good, smart idea.” The liferaft can clearly be seen in the picture above.

As such, an initial plan to evacuate the passengers using boats had to be abandoned as too dangerous.

Two helicopters were brought in, and the rescuers managed to tie ropes from the boat to trees on shore, but the plan for some passengers to climb along these also had to be abandoned because of the high waves and strong winds. In the end all 37 people on board were winched to safety.

TheRomance, a vessel used for two-day diving and snorkelling trips, got into difficulties at around 2am when her anchor began to drag.

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