HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (AP) _ Battling the clock, rescue units rushed Wednesday night to reach 24 sailors aboard a ore freighter sinking in the North Atlantic in 30-foot waves and high winds.

There was no immediate indication if any of the sailors were injured or how fast the ship was sinking.

Canadian Coast Guard and U.S. air units prepared Wednesday night to leave for the Greek-owned Amphion, foundering about 500 miles off Newfoundland. The ship issued its first distress call at about 8 a.m. Wednesday, but help isn't expected until 2:30 a.m Thursday at the earliest.

``They're still taking in water, and they don't think they're going to salvage the (craft),'' Canadian Coast Guard Capt. Perry Kurzynski said Wednesday night.

The ship, a bulk carrier almost the length of two football fields, was damaged by the storm that blanketed the East Coast with snow earlier this week. The same storm has hindered rescuers.

A Coast Guard ship expected to reach the Amphion early Thursday would try to rescue the crew using a large inflatable raft, said Dan Bedell, a guard spokesman in Halifax.

He said rescuers would have only a short window of opportunity Thursday morning to get the crew to safety before another storm moved into the area Thursday afternoon.

The U.S. military also was preparing to help. U.S. Air National Guard units based in Boston and in Westhampton Beach, N.Y., were to leave for the scene early Thursday.

The 106th Rescue Wing of the New York Air National Guard will send two helicopters and 25 people at about 5 a.m. Thursday. The aircraft will fly nine hours to St. John's, Newfoundland, to rest and refuel before making the five-hour flight to the scene.

They are expected to arrive at 8 a.m. Friday.

A C-130 from the Marine Corps Reserve in Newburgh, N.Y., will accompany the helicopters.