A search and rescue operation is under way after a boat capsized near an island off the Southern Great Barrier Reef in Queensland.

The yacht was about four nautical miles south of Lady Elliot Island, near Gladstone, when it sent out a distress signal at 5am today.

Police believe the vessel was travelling from Yeppoon to Brisbane, with three passengers on board when it upturned.

A search and rescue operation is under way after a boat capsize on the Queensland coast
A search and rescue operation is under way after a boat capsize on the Queensland coast. (QPS)

Emergency services commenced a search and rescue operation involving multiple vessels, police divers and a rescue helicopter.

Two people were located in the water just after 10.15am and winched to safety by helicopter, police said. 

They were taken to hospital for treatment.

The search continues for the remaining male passenger.

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