15 people flee The Escape cargo ship after engine room catches fire in Baltic Sea

Fifteen people have fled a Dutch-flagged container vessel in the middle of the sea after its engine room caught fire.

It had been travelling between Lithuania and Lativa in the early hours of this morning when the crew abandoned the cargo ship in the Gulf of Riga, off the Latvian capital.

Crew members had attempted to extinguish the fire - but due to unsuccessful attempts, the ship's master took the decision to evacuate and abandon ship.

Cargo on the 168m-long (551ft) container vessel - called The Escape - weighed 17,000 tons, which Cor Radings, a spokesperson for JR Shipping, said was made up of "all sorts of goods".

However, it is not clear whether the vessel was carrying any hazardous material.

Mr Radings said it was "likely" but that he could not confirm "as obviously a vessel of that size with the containers on board will normally also have [hazardous] cargo on board".

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He added: "A salvage company has been contracted to respond to the ongoing incident and secure the ship."

All crew managed to escape without injury and board a nearby vessel called Kairit, which is currently transporting them to safety in Riga Bay.

Lithuanian fire services have been dispatched from the port city of Klaipeda equipped with two firefighting tugboats.

The cause of the fire is not yet known.