Tourists jump from burning catamaran in Great Barrier Reef

Tourists jump from catamaran in Australia
Tourists jump from catamaran in Australia

More than 40 tourists are recovering after jumping into life rafts when the catamaran they were aboard caught fire in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia.

The Spirit of 1770 got into trouble 10 nautical miles off the coastal town of 1770 following a day-trip to Lady Musgrave Island, apparently when a fire started in the engine room.

See also: Tourists jump from Vietnamese cruise ship as it bursts into flames

See also: Video: men rescued in Cornwall after boat hit by huge wave

The passengers, many of them elderly Chinese, and four crew abandoned ship and jumped into the water before swimming to life rafts late on Wednesday.

Many of the passengers were elderly Chinese. Local news source the Observer said there were also some from Canada, New Zealand and Britain.

They drifted for several hours before three rescue boats arrived and ferried them ashore, where pictures showed them huddled under blankets as they were treated by paramedics.

"Of the 46 people on board, 19 received treatment for non-life threatening injuries at hospitals in Bundaberg and Gladstone," Queensland police said in a statement.

English traveller Gemma Sargent said she was woken by people shouting about the fire.

"All of a sudden the captain goes 'Get off the boat!' and I'm looking at him thinking 'How?'," she told Seven News. "Everyone literally got shoved off whether you could swim or not."

Lady Musgrave Island, a coral cay, is a popular tourist destination some 500 km (310 miles) north of Brisbane and is only reachable by boat.