BREMERHAVEN, West Germany (AP) _ A Danish ferry with more than 370 aboard limped into harbor today after a freighter struck it from behind in the North Sea, killing three passengers and injuring 11 other people, officials said.

Witnesses said parts of the dance lounge of the passenger ferry Hamburg were hanging out of a 60-foot gash in the hull after the Wednesday night collision with the Nordic Stream. The freighter's deck was littered with cocktail chairs from the ferry.

By coincidence, the lounge was almost empty when the crash occurred because the conductor of the ship's band was feeling sick and had delayed a scheduled evening dance by half an hour, said officials with ferry owner Scandinavian Seaways.

The ferry was traveling from Hamburg, West Germany, to Harwich, England when it was struck. Six seriously injured people were taken by helicopter from the ferry after the accident south of the island of Helgoland, said an official with ferry owner Danish Scandinavian Seaways.

The official, Hardwig Scheel, said in a radio interview that experts in Bremerhaven were investigating how the huge ferry, carrying 277 passengers and 96 crew members, was struck by the Nordic Stream, a container ship.

Scandinavian Seaways said the 170-foot ferry, with a capacity of 1,000 people, was struck above and below the water line in the area of the ship's lounge where people were relaxing.

Eleven people are known to have been hurt, of which five remained hospitalized Thursday, Scheel told The Associated Press, revising an earlier report of 15 injuries.

He said the identities of the dead were not confirmed but that they appeared to be two Britons and a German.

Scandinavian Seaways said the passengers included 60 Britons, 192 Germans, 16 Danes and nine others of unidentified nationality.

The Hamburg has a gross registered tonnage of 13,141. The 8,026-ton Nordic Stream sails under Panamanian registry.

The West German sea rescue station in Cuxhaven said the accident occurred at 10:16 p.m. as the Hamburg was steaming out to sea and the Nordic Stream was heading toward the Elbe channel in the direction of Hamburg harbor.

Officials said a storm warning was in effect at the time of the accident with high winds and rough seas.

Rescue officials said evacuation of the injured had been hampered by the bad weather.

The ferry sails every two days between Hamburg and Harwich.