An Indian crew member was killed and 20 others were injured when a major fire broke out on board a cargo vessel carrying nearly 3,000 cars off the Netherlands coast, with Dutch coastguards warning that the blaze could last for several days.
The fire broke out on Tuesday night on the 199-metre Panama-registered Fremantle Highway, which was en route from Germany to Egypt. Several crew members were forced to jump overboard.
The Indian Embassy in the Netherlands said in a social media post the fire had resulted in the death of an Indian national.
“We are deeply saddened by the incident involving Ship ‘Fremantle Highway’ in the North Sea, resulting in the death of an Indian seafarer & injuries to the crew,” it said in a tweet on Wednesday.
The embassy said it was in touch with the family of the deceased and is assisting in the repatriation of the mortal remains.
“Embassy is also in touch with the remaining 20 injured crew members, who are safe and receiving medical attention. All possible assistance is being extended in coordination with the Dutch authorities and the shipping company,” it said.
Rescue boats and helicopters were used to get the 23 crew members off the ship after some had jumped in the water, a spokesperson for the Dutch coastguard told CNN on Wednesday.
Pictures show grey smoke emitting from the ship amid fears the vessel could sink 27 kilometers north of the Dutch island, Ameland, off the Wadden Sea – a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is considered one of the most important regions for migratory birds in the world, the report said.
The fire may have been started by one of the 25 electric cars on board, according to Dutch national broadcaster NOS.
Dutch firefighters were still struggling to put out the fire on the cargo ship some 16 hours after the blaze started, a Dutch coastguard said.
It could take hours, days, or even weeks to make sure the fire is completely out, a spokesman said, adding that it is currently too dangerous to put firefighters on the ship.
“If you start filling the ship with water, you risk destabilising it and that could tip it over,” spokesman Edwin Grammeman told NOS.
According to the coastguard, a distress call came when the ship was some 30 kilometres off the coast of the Wadden Sea island of Ameland.
The 23 crew members on board the Panamanian-flagged ship attempted to put out the fire themselves, but the blaze spread too fast. Specialised firefighters were brought in from Rotterdam but the situation had already become too dangerous by the time they arrived, the Dutch News reported.
Seven of the crew jumped into the sea and were picked up by nearby ships. The remaining crew members were rescued by helicopters. It is not clear how the person who died was killed, it said.
The authorities are now focusing their efforts on preventing the listing ship from sinking. A tugboat from the Wadden Island water taxi service Rederij Noordgat was able to attach a rope to the Fremantle Highway and prevent it from drifting into shipping lanes.
Other boats are on standby to try to help pull the vessel to safety.