LOS ANGELES – A 16-year-old Southern California girl attempting a solo sail around the world was feared in trouble Thursday thousands of miles from land in the frigid, heaving southern Indian Ocean after her emergency beacons began signaling and communication was lost.

Australian Maritime Safety Authority spokeswoman Carly Lusk said three vessels were sent from the French territory of Reunion Island and an aircraft was to depart from Perth on a four-hour flight to Abby Sunderland’s location more than 2,000 miles from both Africa and Australia.

It was not clear when the vessels left, but it would take a day for the nearest ship to reach the area. Reunion Island is off Madagascar, the very large island along the east coast of Africa.

Conditions can quickly become perilous for any sailor exposed to the elements in that part of the world.

“We’ve got to get a plane out there quick,” said family spokesman Christian Pinkston, adding that the teen’s family in Thousand Oaks was asking for prayers for her safety.

Her brother Zac, also a teenage solo sailor, said Abby was prepared and mentally tough. “I really wish I could see her and hope she gets through this one,” he told reporters outside the family home.

Abby last communicated with her family at 4 a.m. PDT and reported 30-foot swells but was not in distress, Pinkston said.

An hour later the family was notified that her emergency beacons had been activated, and there was no further communication. Pinkston said the beacons were manually activated.

Her brother said the boat was most likely not completely submerged because another beacon would be triggered at a depth of 15 feet.

Derrick Fries, a U.S. sailing instruction and safety expert, said Abby’s circumstances were very unclear.

“It’s hard to determine if she’s rolled over, swamped, or washed overboard. She has to have a dry suit on to have any chance,” he said.

“To be capsized in the middle of the ocean with waves crashing relentlessly down, not just for hours, but days, I can’t tell you how difficult those conditions are.”

A lifelong sailor whose father is a shipwright and has a yacht management company, Abby set sail from Los Angeles County’s Marina del Rey in her 40-foot boat, Wild Eyes, on Jan. 23 in an attempt to become the youngest person to sail around the world alone without stopping. Her brother briefly held the record in 2009.

Before Abby’s voyage began, her brother described her as having more skill and experience than most sailors in their 20s and 30s. Her father said she had more solo sailing experience than Zac did before he started out.

“He totally thinks that I’m ready to do it, so that does help,” she said at the time.

Abby soon ran into equipment problems and had to stop for repairs. She gave up the goal of setting the record in April, but continued on.

On May 15, Australian 16-year-old Jessica Watson claimed the record after completing a 23,000-mile circumnavigation in 210 days.

Abby left Cape Town, South Africa, on May 21 and on Monday reached the halfway point of her voyage.

On Wednesday, she wrote in her log that it had been a rough few days with huge seas that had her boat “rolling around like crazy.”

“Wild Eyes was great through everything but after a day with over 50 knots at times, I had quite a bit of work to do.”

Charlie Nobles, executive director of the American Sailing Association, said the best-case scenario would be that she had had a severe knockdown or roll that caused her communication equipment to go out, or the boat sustained structural damage that was preventing her from sailing.

The worst case would be if she was in the water or in her life raft.