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Hazardous materials burning aboard container ship off B.C. coast

Container fire under control

UPDATE 4:25 p.m.

Officials don't yet know how many containers burned aboard a cargo ship in a still-smouldering blaze off the coast of Victoria, a spokesman for the Canadian Coast Guard said Sunday.

The flames initially spread to 10 containers after another 40 fell overboard in choppy waters on Friday, but JJ Brickett said the fire on the MV Zim Kingston was mostly under control by Sunday afternoon.

"Looking at the actual images, it's a pile," Brickett told a virtual news conference. "The containers burned down to basically their shell and then collapsed on top of one another."

Provincial and federal officials are working with all the First Nations on the west coast of Vancouver Island while investigating the fire aboard the ship, he said.

Brickett said the location of some of the containers that landed in the ocean is being monitored by helicopter, but efforts to retrieve them can't start until after a break in a storm that is forecast to worsen until Monday.

Efforts to read labels on the downed containers in order to try and identify their contents have not been fruitful and officials are trying to account for all of them, Brickett said.

"One of the objectives for 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."

The MV Zim Kingston had experienced some damage as it approached Vancouver and the crew were in contact with the Canadian Coast Guard and Transport Canada, he said, adding the vessel was assessed off the Strait of Juan de Fuca where it was anchored for repairs and to await further contact with the latter agency.

He said Transport Canada inspectors will be aboard the ship after the "emergency phase" of securing the safety of the vessel and those still on it, and that its Greece-based owner is providing assistance.


UPDATE: 11:35 a.m.

Applying cold water directly to a fire burning in 10 containers aboard a cargo ship near Victoria is not an option due to hazardous materials in two of them, the Canadian Coast Guard said Sunday.

The agency said in a tweet that the hull of the MV Zim Kingston had been cooled overnight by a tugboat spraying it with water.

It said the blaze aboard the ship about eight kilometres off the coast of Victoria poses a significant risk to mariners but not people on shore.

Two of the burning containers on the deck held 52,000 kilograms of a hazardous material identified as potassium amylxanthate, the agency said in a news release.

It noted the ship itself was not on fire, but said in a tweet that an emergency zone had been doubled to two nautical miles around the Zim Kingston.

The Joint Rescue and Coordination Centre in Victoria said 16 crewmembers were safely taken off the ship, while five others, including the captain, remained on board at their own behest.

The coast guard said recovery of the containers with the hazardous material may be a challenge due to stormy weather forecast for Sunday.


ORIGINAL: 7:15 a.m.

The Canadian Coast Guard said there was significant risk to mariners but not to people on shore as a fire burned in containers aboard a cargo ship about eight kilometres off the coast of Victoria on Sunday.

The Coast Guard said it received word late Saturday morning about a fire in 10 damaged containers aboard the MV Zim Kingston, which was anchored in Constance Bank, B.C.

Two of the burning containers on the ship's deck held hazardous material identified as potassium amylxanthate, the agency said in a news release.

It noted the ship itself was not on fire, but said an emergency zone had been set up for one nautical mile around the Zim Kingston.

The Joint Rescue and Coordination Centre in Victoria said 16 crewmembers were safely taken off the ship, while five others, including the captain, remained on board at their own behest.

Canadian Coast Guard spokeswoman Michelle Imbeau said an Incident Command Post led by the Coast Guard on behalf of the federal and B.C. governments, as well as First Nations representatives, was co-ordinating a multi-agency response to the incident.

She said the Command Post was also working with the U.S. Coast Guard to monitor 40 containers that fell overboard from the Zim Kingston in choppy waters on Friday and were floating about 12 nautical miles off the west coast of Vancouver Island, near Bamfield.

The Coast Guard said the containers, some of which contain hazardous material, posed a significant risk to mariners, and that with stormy weather in Sunday's forecast, recovering them may be a challenge.

It said a Hazmat crew from Vancouver was mobilizing and the owner of the Zim Kingston had contracted the U.S.-based Resolve Marine Group for salvage operations, including firefighting and recovery of the containers.

Resolve Marine had mobilized two vessels that were expected to be on site Sunday.

The Canadian Coast Guard, meanwhile, said it was working through the Emergency Management BC network to broadcast public safety information as required.



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