Dutch diver dies off Malta coast, 17 rescued

VALLETTA (Reuters) - A Dutch diver died and 17 other tourists were rescued when they got into difficulty while swimming in rough seas off Malta on Tuesday, police said.

The Armed Forces of Malta said the divers were in two groups swimming off Cirkewwa, a popular dive spot at the northern tip of Malta when strong winds suddenly whipped up a rough sea.

Several patrol boats and a helicopter were deployed to look for the divers, who were swimming near a popular wreck site.

Four managed to reach the shore, less than a mile away, on their own. All the others were plucked from the sea, but one was declared dead on arrival at hospital.

Eyewitnesses said the divers were of various nationalities.

Several thousand divers visit Malta annually, making it an important part of the island's tourism industry. This is believed to be the biggest rescue operation undertaken for divers.

(Reporting by Christopher Scicluna, editing by Ed Osmond)