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Fire under control on cargo ship spewing toxic gas off Canada

Blaze on ship carrying mining chemicals off British Columbia appears to be under control, Canadian Coast Guard says.

The Canadian Coast Guard has said a fire spewing toxic gas from a container ship has been “stabilised” and that it planned to deploy firefighters to the vessel to quell the rest of the blaze.

The Zim Kingston is anchored off the city of Victoria in British Columbia, in the Strait of Juan de Fuca which marks the maritime border between Canada and the United States, according to the marine tracking site MarineTraffic.

It was bound for Vancouver when the fire broke out, with the blaze reported to the coast guard at about 11pm local time on Saturday (06:00 GMT on Sunday), CBC News reported.

A total of 16 people were evacuated from the ship, with five remaining on board.

Residents of the island are not in danger, officials said, and transit of commercial vessels to the ports of Vancouver and Seattle ports is unimpeded.

People watch from Clover Point Park as salvage tug boats spray what appears to be water on to the container ship Zim Kingston [Kevin Light/Reuters]

The coastguard is telling all vessels to stay at least two nautical miles away, and the transport ministry has restricted all aircraft, including drones, from flying within two nautical miles or below 2,000 feet (600 metres) over the ship.

The coastguard announced on Sunday that the fire had now “been stabilised”, while saying that strong West Coast storms expected for Monday could thwart plans to send firefighters on  board.

“Depending on weather tomorrow (Monday), hazardous materials firefighters will board the ship to fight any remaining fires and ensure the fire is out,” the coastguard said.

“We can’t see any scorching or charring of those adjacent containers, that’s a really good sign,” Canadian Coast Guard Commander JJ Brickett said. “The fire is smouldering as you would expect, and we’re continuing to cool on either side.”

Containers which fell overboard from the ship Zim Kingston are seen floating west of the Straits of Juan de Fuca, off the west coast of British Columbia [US Coast Guard via Reuters]

Despite the “toxic gas” that the coastguard said was emanating from the ship, there was no current risk to people on the shore, it insisted.

The fire was caused by “excessive listing due to extreme weather”, Danos said, adding that no injuries were reported.

The firm said it was sending claims adjusters on board “to ensure that conditions are appropriate for the safe return of the vessel’s crew”.

Emergency tow vessels, tugs and the coastguard were set to monitor the ship overnight to ensure that it remains secured.

Dozens of containers lost

Although the ship did not present an immediate risk to land, such as an oil spill or toxic tide, teams were set to continue to monitor the situation, particularly in light of the strong gales that are expected.

To extinguish the fire, a tugboat had sprayed cold water on the hull, the coastguard said, explaining that “due to the nature of chemicals on board the container ship, applying water directly to the fire is not an option”.

According to Radio-Canada, 40 containers were lost in the Pacific Ocean during the incident, with the Canadian Coast Guard and its American counterpart working together to recover them.

The container ship is carrying more than 52 tonnes of chemicals, the broadcaster said.




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