An urgent operation has been underway off the coast of Cumbria after mining workers hit a gas pocket.

It has emerged that the incident happened just before 5.30pm yesterday, between St Bees and Whitehaven.

The gas leak has now been sealed following an operation today.

A UK Coastguard spokeswoman said they were were notified that drilling operations from a jack-up barge had struck a gas pocket approximately one nautical mile from St Bee’s Head.

The drilling is part of a programme of exploration work to support a new coal mining project in west Cumbria.

She added: "The barge remained in close contact with Belfast Coastguard Operations Centre throughout, who closely monitored the situation together with the Maritime & Coastguard Agency’s Counter Pollution Team.

"Local authorities, fire rescue, police and the Environment Agency were all informed."

The barge did not have to be evacuated, though the coastguard and other local rescue teams were put on standby.

She added: "Their standard procedures for dealing with gas pockets were adhered to by the operator and the leak was sealed earlier today.

"The dedicated support vessel will remain with the barge overnight as part of the standard procedures."

Colin Wadey from St Bees RNLI said: "We were on standby last night because there was a problem.

"We were told we might be needed because they might have hit a methane pocket. We weren't called out though."