Wind delays recovery of burning ship


Strong winds delayed the recovery of a cargo ship with electric vehicles on board at the weekend. A fire broke out on the ship earlier this week – near the Dutch coast – and firefighters have been scrambling for days to bring the flames under control.

Meanwhile, fears about an ecological disaster that could unfold as a result of the fire continue.

An electric vehicle on board the ship is thought to have caused the fire.

The smoldering Fremantle Highway may not be moved to a new location for several days, the Dutch water management agency, Rijkwaterstaat, has decided.

The flames subsided a little, but a change in wind direction plunged the lifeboat that has to tow the cargo ship into a cloud of smoke – which now poses new health and safety hazards.

The agency says the fire has “no direct consequences” for the environment around the burning ship.

The Fremantle Highway lies near the Terschelling and Ameland, which form part of a group of ecologically sensitive islands in the Wadden Sea.

“We can be slightly more optimistic, but the danger is still there,” says Manfred Santen, associated with Greenpeace in Germany. He visited the area on Saturday and referred, among other things, to a “terrible smell” hanging in the area.

The effects of chemicals that are released – due to the plastic and other materials that burn in the vehicles – remain a source of great concern, especially on micro-organisms and other species lower on the food chain and on which birds and fish rely for food.

Japan-based K Line, which operates the ship, said there are 3,783 cars on board, of which 498 are electric vehicles.

One crew member of the ship died after he and 22 others were rescued from the burning vessel. Some crew members jumped overboard and had to be picked up from the sea and brought to safety.