A 650-foot ferry was ablaze in the Baltic Sea on Saturday after an explosion on the upper deck and firefighting ships were spraying the vessel with water to keep it from breaking apart and spilling some 170 tons of fuel.
Some 204 passengers and 32 crew were rescued by six ships that moved in to help after the explosion on the Lisco Gloria around midnight. Three were taken to hospitals by helicopter and another 19 were slightly injured, police said.
Authorities said the cause of the explosion had not been determined.
"People were lucky because it all happened on a major shipping route, that's why the other vessels were quickly on hand to rescue people," Ulrike Windhoevel, the spokeswoman for Germany's Central Command for Maritime Emergencies in Cuxhaven, said.
The Lithuanian-flagged ferry was traveling from the German port of Kiel to Klaipeda, Lithuania, authorities said. Passengers and crew were evacuated by lifeboat and taken by another ferry to a naval base near Kiel, officials and the shipping company DFDS said.
The Maritime Emergencies Central Command said a four-person team was lowered to the ferry by helicopter and managed to anchor the vessel to keep it from drifting farther ashore.
Firefighters were concentrating on cooling the burning ship to stop it breaking apart, it said.
Denmark dispatched a vessel specialized in fighting oil spills, Windhoevel said. The vessel is thought to have about 170 tons of fuel aboard, she said.