More than 300 Sri Lankans were rescued at sea off the Spratly Islands after their fishing vessel was damaged and found adrift.
A spokesperson for the Vietnam Maritime Search and Rescue Coordination Center said Tuesday the agency received news that the Myanmar-flagged Lady R3 with 303 Sri Lankans suspected to be headed for Canada was in trouble.

On November 5, when it was around 258 nautical miles off Vung Tau in the southern coast, its engine room flooded and the vessel began to drift. There were rough seas at the time. The center then tried to contact the ship and also broadcast emergency signals to other ships in the vicinity. At 3 p.m. Monday it found that the Japanese-flagged Helios Leader was in the area, and requested it to make a detour and rescue the people aboard Lady R3.

The Japanese vessel was able to reach the distressed boat, whose crew members were in a state of panic. It then rescued the passengers and provided medical assistance to whoever needed it.

The center also mobilized five other ships and told them to circle the area to provide support if needed. The 264 men, 19 women and 20 children are safe and expected to reach Vung Tau by Tuesday.

Earlier, the Sri Lanka Navy said a Sri Lankan citizen in the boat contacted the navy on Monday and said they were in distress, and the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in Colombo sought help from Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Singapore authorities later notified Sri Lanka that the people on board the boat had been rescued and were heading to Vietnam, Navy spokesman Indika de Silva said .