At least 10 killed after two ships catch fire near Crimea

Several rescued in ongoing operation in disputed Kerch Strait

Smoke rises from a fire at a ship in the Kerch Strait near Crimea. Photograph: Reuters

Ten crew members have been found dead and 14 have been rescued after two ships caught fire in the Kerch Strait near Crimea, Russian's transport ministry told Reuters on Monday, with a rescue operation still under way.

The ministry said earlier on Monday that crew members were jumping into the sea to escape the flames. Both ships were under the Tanzanian flag – Candy (Venice) and Maestro – and had a combined total of 31 crew members. Of them, 16 were Turkish citizens and 15 from India, it said.

The ministry said the fire probably broke out during a ship-to-ship fuel transhipment.

The Kerch Strait which controls access from the Black Sea to the Azov Sea has been at the centre of tensions between Ukraine and Russia following Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014. In November, Russia seized three Ukranian naval ships in the strait after what it called a "provocation". – Reuters