Dutch Coast Guard said Wednesday at least one person died with multiple injured after a fire erupted in a car carrier ship off the Netherlands, as officials rescued people by airlifting with the help of a helicopter.
Officials received the call at midnight Tuesday about a blaze on the Fremantle Highway, a Panamanian-registered ship with 3,000 vehicles on board, about 14.5 nautical miles (27 kilometres) off the northern Dutch island of Ameland.
The coast guard said: “All 23 crew members have now been evacuated off the ship” with the use of helicopters and a boat.”
“The crew tried to put out the fire themselves but failed. Unfortunately, one person died and several others were injured.”
At least seven crew members jumped overboard and were rescued from the water, while the rest were airlifted by helicopter.
The Fremantle Highway is an 18,500-tonne car carrier ship and was sailing between Bremerhaven in Germany and Port Said in Egypt when the blaze broke out, according to the marinetraffic.com website.
“The blaze is still raging on board,” the coastguard said, adding that the ship was listing.
“Salvage vessels were on the scene trying to put out the blaze and prevent the ship from sinking,” state media NOS said.
Specialised firefighters were called from Rotterdam, who would be taken to the ship by helicopter. But the fire developed so quickly that it was no longer safe to bring those firefighters on board.
“A tug vessel has however managed to attach a cable to the stricken ship to prevent it from drifting and blocking an important sailing route into Germany,” the state media reported.
“We are taking into account all scenarios,” a coastguard official told the NOS, adding that the “possible cause of the fire was an electric vehicle, one of some 25 on board.”
The injured sailors were taken to the northern towns of Lauwersoog and Eelde and left in the care of paramedics there.
The Fremantle Highway is currently close to Ameland, one of four ecologically sensitive Frisian islands, situated in the Waddensee area just north of the Dutch mainland.
Some 340 containers tumbled off one of the world’s largest container ships after a storm in the same area in early 2019, littering kilometres of pristine coastline with plastic and polystyrene.