Seven injured crew members of the Korean fishing vessel engulfed by fire in the Southern Ocean on Wednesday have left Antartica and are due to arrive in Christchurch this evening.

Three crew members missing since the fire on the Jeong Woo 2 are believed to have died in the blaze. Forty crew were on board when the 51m fishing vessel caught fire in the Ross Sea, about 3700km southeast of New Zealand.

Maritime New Zealand said a United States Airforce C-130 Hercules left McMurdo base on Antarctica around 12.35pm and arrive in Christchurch about 8.15pm.

The aircraft is carrying seven injured seamen, including three who are seriously injured. They will be taken to Christchurch Hospital on arrival.

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The seamen were expected to arrive this morning, however an overnight flight aboard a US aircraft was canned due to poor weather in Christchurch.

Two of the injured men had burns to 50 per cent and 30 per cent of their bodies respectively, while the other five have less serious burns. All were reported stable last night.

The other 30 crew were aboard the Jeong Woo 2's sister ship, the Jeong Woo 3, which will rendezvous with Korean icebreaker the Araon to collect the crew and take them back to Lyttelton.

The Araon, which was also involved in the rescue of the stranded Russian ship Sparta last month, was estimated to arrive on January 19.

The Sparta, which spent 12 days stranded by Antarctica after a collision with sea ice tore a hole in its hull, arrived in Nelson this week for repairs.

- APNZ, Herald Online