Emergency crews largely contained a chemical fire aboard a container ship anchored off western Canada, but warned an impending ‘bomb cyclone’ storm could complicate efforts to fully assess the damage to the vessel and the surrounding marine ecosystem.
The fire broke out on Saturday aboard the MV Zim Kingston, a cargo ship carrying mining chemicals, including potassium amylxanthate, a dangerous substance used to separate ores.
Sixteen crew members were evacuated, while five remained on board to fight the blaze.
Because water couldn’t be used to attack the flames, crews sprayed cold water on the ship to keep it cool and prevent fire from spreading to other containers.
By Sunday the blaze had turned into a smoldering fire and at least 10 containers were completely burned.
“We can’t see any burning or charring of these adjacent containers. This is a very good sign, ”Commander JJ Brickett told reporters. “The fire is smoldering as you would expect, and we continue to cool on either side. “
But the Canadian Coast Guard warned it would not be able to immediately assess the extent of damage to the vessel and the surrounding marine ecosystem. The area was also due to a “bomb cyclone” storm, with gusts of rain and wind expected to exceed 70 km / h (43 mph).
“In the unlikely event that she moves her anchor, we have plenty of rescue tugs … and precautions are taken on board so that towing can be done very quickly,” Brickett said, adding that ships were nearby for monitor the ship.
All ships were ordered to keep at least two nautical miles from the ship, and aircraft were prohibited from flying less than two nautical miles above their heads.
The ship, which was anchored eight kilometers (five miles) off the coast of Victoria, also lost around 40 containers earlier this week in what the company called “very difficult weather conditions”.
US Coast Guard officials warned that floating containers poses a threat to other vessels. Some of the metal containers, painted in dark blue, were difficult to spot in the midst of dark choppy waters.
The Canadian Coast Guard said it has contacted First Nations coastal communities to assist with efforts to recover lost cargo – some of which may also contain hazardous materials – but any recovery will have to wait until the storm is over.