Coastguards today rescued 110 children who were swept out to sea off the east coast of Ireland during a junior regatta.

A major rescue operation began after a sudden squall capsized 91 boats taking part in the event, off the seaside town of Dun Laoghaire in County Dublin.

Around 20 children were initially feared missing, but the coastguard said all had been plucked from the water less than a mile from shore.

"They are all accounted for," a coastguard officer said. "Emergency services are on the scene and are treating the children who were taken from the water and were extremely cold."

Dun Laoghaire and Howth lifeboats, the naval ship LE Aoife and local boats were all involved in the rescue operation.

Ambulance crews were at the scene and hospitals across south Dublin were put on standby, according to the Health Service Executive.

The children, all under the age of 16, were wearing lifejackets when they were thrown into the water at around 2pm. Members of four yachting clubs based in Dublin, they had been taking part in a regatta run by the Royal St George Yacht Club.