Electric car to blame after 18,000-tonne cargo ship explodes into fireball

Crew member dies as fire on ship carrying 3,000 cars burns out of control

Electric cars are being blamed after an 18,000-tonne cargo ship exploded into a fireball in the middle of the North Sea.

The fire, which killed one person, and triggered fears of an environmental disaster, occurred just off the coast of the Netherlands earlier this week.

According to reports, the fire continues to burn out of control as crews work out how to control the blaze.

The fire was allegedly sparked by an electric car on board the ship which was manned by a crew of 23 who initially attempted to put out the fire.

The ship, known as the Fremantle Highway, was carrying around 3,000 cars when the fire started.

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It was travelling from Bremerhaven, Germany, to Port Said, Egypt, when the fire broke out.

Owner of the ship, Shoei Kisen Kaisha said in a statement that of the vehicles on board the Panama-registered vessel, just 25 were electric cars.

Speaking to the NOS public broadcaster, the company said there was a “good chance that the fire started with electric cars”.

They added: “We are now trying to extinguish the fire in co-operation with the local authorities of the Netherlands, the salvor, and the ship management company.”

The fire comes as the International Maritime Organisation says it is planning new regulations for ships carrying electric cars after they were blamed for several fires.

Following the fire, a major salvage operation has been launched, but authorities say the fire could burn for weeks and cause an environmental disaster.

Local media said it was too dangerous for firefighters to board the ship.

A spokesperson for the Netherlands Coastguard told NOS that as well as trying to put the fire out, they were also trying to keep the ship cool.

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Edwin Grammeman said: “If you start filling the ship with water, you risk destabilising it and that could tip it over.

“The ship is being cooled to keep it stable. Only the side of the ship is being sprayed, not the deck.”

There are growing fears that if the Freemantle Highway sinks it could cause a major environmental disaster.

The ship is situated very close to the Waddensee area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which is home to more than 10,000 aquatic species.

De Telegraaf said that if the ship were to sink “it would be a disaster of the highest order”.

The sailors, mainly from India, have been taken to the towns of Lawuwersoog and Eelde where they are being treated by paramedics.

A safety official told AFP: “They all suffered from breathing problems, but none are in serious danger. The sailors were also treated for burns and broken bones.”

The coastguard added: “Currently several parties including salvagers and the Dutch authorities are looking at minimising the damage as much as possible.”

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