A crew member perished when a vessel transporting 3000 cars caught fire off the Dutch coast. One person was killed, and several others were injured when a fire broke out on a cargo ship transporting nearly 3,000 vehicles off the coast of the Netherlands. Coastguards have warned that the fire could last for several days.
The fire began Tuesday night on the 199-foot Fremantle Highway, registered in Panama and traveling from Germany to Egypt. Several crew members were compelled to abandon the ship.
The Dutch coastguard reported that rescue ships were spraying water on the burning vessel to cool it down, but using too much water posed a danger of sinking. A salvage vessel was attached to the ship to prevent it from drifting.
“The fire is most assuredly still not under control. According to Dutch Department of Waterways and Public Works spokesperson Edwin Versteeg, the blaze is extremely difficult to extinguish, presumably because of the ship’s cargo.
On its website, the Coastguard stated that the fire’s origin was unknown, but a Coastguard spokesperson told Reuters that it began near an electric vehicle.
“The fire could continue to burn for days,” an unnamed coastguard official told AFP on condition of anonymity. “The spacecraft is cooled to maintain its stability. The ship’s sides are being doused, but not the deck.”
A coastguard official told NOS that the fire may have been caused by one of the approximately 25 electric vehicles on board. “We are considering all possible outcomes,” the official stated.
The coastguard reported that the Bremerhaven-departing Fremantle had been towed out of shipping lanes and could plummet. It is now near Ameland, one of four ecologically sensitive Frisian islands located just north of the Dutch mainland in the Waddenzee region.
The territory has been designated a Unesco world heritage site, home to over 10,000 aquatic and terrestrial life species. This includes more than 140 species of fish, of which approximately 20 spend their entire lives in the famous mud flats along the islands’ coastal areas.
If the Fremantle Highway were to collapse, “it would be a catastrophe of the highest order,” according to the Dutch tabloid De Telegraaf.
Willard Molenaar of the Royal Dutch Rescue Company (KNRM), the first on the scene, stated that seven crew members had leaped overboard because the fire had spread rapidly.
Molenaar reported to NOS that several people sustained injuries during the long leap into the water, while one crew member perished in the flames. “There was a great deal of smoke, and the fire spread much faster than anticipated,” he said. “The passengers had to disembark swiftly… We extracted them from the water.”
The remaining members of the ship’s 23-person crew were airlifted to safety by helicopter. According to local Dutch authorities, the crew was being treated for breathing difficulties, burns, and fractured bones.
Edwin Granneman, a spokesperson for the coast guard, stated that salvage experts were determining the next steps for the burning yacht.
The conflagration was the latest in recent incidents involving car carriers. Earlier this month, two New Jersey firefighters were slain, and five others were injured battling a fire on a cargo ship carrying hundreds of vehicles. In February last year, another fire destroyed thousands of luxury vehicles on a vessel off the coast of Portugal’s Azores islands.