76 Chinese rescued from deadly England tide
British emergency services rescued 136 shellfish diggers, including 76 Chinese citizens, who had been trapped by rising tidal waters in the same part of northwestern England where 21 Chinese migrants were drowned in February, coastguards said.
A major rescue operation was quickly mounted when the alarm was sounded at around 10:00 am (0900 GMT).
Originally 170 people were believed to have been stranded on Morecambe Bay, a dangerous stretch of beach because of fast-flowing tides.
But officials later said they believed everyone had been rescued.
"All the cocklers are now accounted for and everybody is safe and well," said Mark Clark, from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.
Sixty of the diggers were Scottish and 76 were Chinese.
"The cocklers were cut off after an accident involving their tractors," said the operations manager at the Morecambe Bay lifeboat station, Michael Guy.
Authorities said the rescue operation, which involved more than 100 rescuers and fisherman as well as two helicopters, was hampered by the fact that the group of shellfish diggers had splintered into various smaller groups.
They said an investigation would be launched into the incident.
In February, 21 migrant Chinese workers drowned when they were caught by racing tides while gathering cockles in the famously treacherous shallows of Morecambe Bay.
Police believe there were another two victims but have yet to recover their bodies. Five people, including three Chinese citizens, have been charged in relation to the incident.
Police are investigating whether those who died in February were used as cheap labour by "gangmasters" who organise groups of itinerant workers for jobs such as crop picking and shellfish collecting.
It is thought that at least 3,000 gangmasters -- employing up to 100,000 workers, many of them illegal immigrants -- operate in areas such as agriculture, shellfish collection, food processing and packaging.
Police found that many of the February victims had been employed illegally, earning minimal wages and being housed in appalling conditions.
Their death prompted parliament in July to adopt legislation aimed at curbing the activities of gangmasters.
The bill requires regular inspections to make sure that gangmasters comply with the law in areas such as social security, housing and immigration.