Scores of children plucked from Irish Sea

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DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) – Rescuers plucked about 110 children from the sea Thursday after a sudden squall hit their flotilla of sailboats during a race in the Irish Sea, officials said.

The sailors, mostly teenagers but some as young as 12, were taking part in the National Yacht Club junior regatta when a surge in winds and waves capsized many of their 91 boats.

More than 100 children were rescued and evaluated on shore for hypothermia and shock. Fifteen children and one adult were treated at a hospital, but all were expected to be released.

The planned two-day event began with an official gale warning. But participants, among them kids who had been on sailboats since they were toddlers, said the weather was calm and sunny when the competition began, then changed quickly as is common in Ireland’s summer.

“And then it just suddenly – bang! – went right up, the wind doubled in speed, and the fog came right in. It all just happened so quickly … maybe 30 seconds,” said Finn Murphy, 14.

The event, involving four Dublin-area yacht clubs, required all children to wear life vests and was being overseen by adult sailors in 19 rigid inflatable powerboats.

As the children’s’ vessels toppled over, some were able to right them and head for shore, but others – particularly the youngest – struggled in the water for up to 15 minutes as rescuers worked their way from boat to boat.

Dun Laoghaire harbor police issued an emergency call that brought two larger lifeboats, private boats, a coast guard helicopter and even an Irish navy vessel, the “Aoife,” to the scene.

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