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Ship carrying 3,000 cars burns off Dutch coast, one dead

Ship carrying 3,000 cars burns off Dutch coast, one dead
A view of the harbor of Lauwersoog, the Netherlands, 26 July 2023. A fire broke out overnight on 26 July on the Fremantle Highway, a freighter with 23 crew members onboard, in the North Sea, north of Ameland. According to the Dutch Coast Guard, one person died, and several got hurt. EPA-EFE/Jilmer Postma

A fire blazed on Wednesday on a ship off the Dutch coast with nearly 3,000 vehicles, killing one person and injuring several others, the coastguard said.

The fire began on Tuesday night on the 199-metre Panama-registered Fremantle Highway, which was en route from Germany to Egypt, forcing several crew members to jump overboard.

Rescue ships sprayed water onto the burning boat to cool it down, but too much water risked its sinking, the Dutch coastguard said. A salvage vessel hooked on to stop it drifting.

“The fire is most definitely still not controlled. It’s a very hard fire to extinguish, possibly because of the cargo the ship was transporting,” said Edwin Versteeg, a spokesperson for the Dutch Department Of Waterways and Public Works.

The coastguard said on its website that the cause of the fire was unknown, but a coastguard spokesperson had earlier told Reuters it began near an electric car.

The coastguard said the Fremantle, which had departed from the port of Bremerhaven, had been towed out of shipping lanes and could sink. It was 27 km (17 miles) north of the Dutch island of Ameland when the fire started.

All 23 crew members were evacuated.

A helicopter took some suffering from smoke inhalation to medical facilities on the mainland.

Coastguard spokesperson Edwin Granneman said salvaging experts were trying to work out next steps for the burning boat.

A spokesperson for Shoei Kisen Kaisha, the Japanese ship leasing company that manages the Fremantle, was not immediately available for comment.

The incident was the latest of several fires in recent times on car carriers.

Earlier this month, two New Jersey firefighters were killed and five injured battling a blaze on a cargo ship carrying hundreds of vehicles.

A fire destroyed thousands of luxury cars on a ship off the coast of Portugal’s Azores islands in February last year.

(Reporting by Charlotte Van Campenhout, Rishabh Jaiswal; Writing by Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Alison Williams and Andrew Cawthorne)

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