CREW members on board a tug boat were rescued off the Devon coast in an operation involving the Coastguard and the Navy after the vessel was holed by the ship it was towing.

Eight crew on the Christos XXII - containing about 200 tonnes of diesel – were evacuated after the 70 metre tug, which was towing an empty hull from Germany to Turkey, slowed to check a problem with the tow and became struck on the port side.

The incident started around 9.30pm last night, Sunday, when a 40cm long was opened up and the ship began to take on water.

Two lifeboats, the Exmouth and Torbay, and two naval ships, including HMS Lancaster, were sent to the scene.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said the pumping of water from the vessel was going well and so far there were no reports of pollution.

The crew was taken off the Greek-registered tug by lifeboat and an inflatable pollution control boom will be used to contain any diesel spillage.

A rescue helicopter from RMB Chivenor delivered salvage pumps to the scene and a third tug with larger pumps was also sent to reduce water levels.

The latest update from the coastguard was that RNLI and Royal Navy vessels had now left the scene and efforts were on-going to tow the Christos to shore.