16 evacuated from burning shipping vessel off Canada’s coast

Ten containers on a shipping vessel caught fire off the coast of Canada on Saturday. Photo courtesy of Canadian Coast Guard/Twitter

Oct. 25 (UPI) — First responders over the weekend evacuated 16 people from a container ship that caught fire off the coast of British Columbia, Canadian authorities said.

Ten containers on the vessel burst into flames about 5 miles off the coast of Victoria and 17 miles north of the U.S.-Canada border on Saturday morning, prompting an evacuation of the Zim Kingston by local and federal agencies, the Canadian Coast Guard said in a statement, adding that the evacuated crew were met at Ogden Point by immigration, healthcare and police officials.

No injuries were reported.

The U.S. Coast Guard said in a statement the situation began mid-day Friday when its Puget Sound sector received a notification that the shipping vessel had lost 40 containers overboard after heeling 35 degrees in heavy swells about 38 miles west of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Shortly after 11 a.m. Saturday, Canadian officials noticed a fire within its containers.

Fire-fighting activity continued overnight and through Sunday, when authorities said it had finally been “stabilized.”

“Depending on weather tomorrow, hazardous materials firefighters will board the ship to fight any remaining fires and ensure the fire is out,” the coast guard tweeted.

Amid the fire-fighting operations, a 2-mile emergency zone was established around the vessel, which is owned by Greece-based Danaos Shipping Co.

Overnight Saturday, tug boats sprayed the hull with cold water, as chemicals onboard prevented dousing the fire directly with water.

Smoke from the fire was being tracked from air quality monitoring stations around the Greater Victoria area, the Canadian Coast Guard said.

During a press conference Sunday, JJ Brickett, the Canadian coast guard’s federal incident commander, told reporters that the majority of the fire has been extinguished and it was “smoldering.”

“Presumably, everything that was inside those containers has been consumed by the fire,” he said.

He explained the plan was to let the containers be consumed by the fire while keeping those around it cool with there being no signs of charring detected on them.

“That’s a really good sign,” he said.

U.S. authorities said 35 of the overboard containers have been found with Canadian authorities, adding that of those missing, two contain hazardous materials and both agencies are warning that they “pose a significant risk to mariners.”

“One of the objectives of the response is 100% accountability for all of these containers: where they are, what happened to them, what was in them, and to the extent that we can, how can we recover them,” Brickett said.

Into Monday morning, two vessels monitored the situation as five crew members remained onboard to fight the fire.


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