A SCENE sadly regular on the evening news has confronted holidaymakers.

On Wednesday last week, Kempshott resident Paul Flint with partner Janet Fagg and their friends Richard and Sibyl Wood, from Bramley, witnessed a rescue in the darkness of over 50 people from a rubber dinghy as their cruise ship was travelling from Morocco to Lisbon, Portugal.

The four holidaymakers were nearing the end of their 14-day cruise – returning to Basingstoke on Saturday – when the drama took place.

Mr Flint described how people in the dinghy were frantically bailing out water and it appeared an outboard motor for the boat was not working.

Under maritime law, the Sophie Princess cruise ship stopped to check on the situation and stationed itself adjacent to the dinghy to help create a shelter from the windy conditions and make the sea calmer for those in the dinghy.

The crew then began to throw life jackets and blankets to the migrants huddled together for shelter on the dinghy.

The captain had decided that there was no imminent danger to life so he would maintain a sheltering position and make contact with the Spanish coastal authorities for assistance.

They then sent out a rescue boat with strong searchlights which took control of the situation and eventually all of the migrants were transferred to the Spanish vessel.

Mr Flint, 76, said: “It felt strange – I almost felt removed from it in the sense that I felt like I was watching a news broadcast.

“When they were drifting away from the ship and they were all shouting, flashing the lights and blowing the whistles on the life vests, it is what you see on the news.”

“They were not in immediate danger. But we were off the coast of Cadiz so they had drifted out of the Mediterranean and past Gibraltar so they must have been terribly off course.”

Mr Flint added the ship’s captain said that over the past ten years the crews and ships of the Princess Cruise Lines have participated in over 30 similar rescues.