Burning cargo ship spews toxic gas off Canada's Pacific coast

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Oct 25 2021 09:52 AM | Updated as of Oct 25 2021 09:59 AM

Fire cascades down from the deck of the container ship ZIM Kingston into the waters off the coast of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, October 23, 2021, as seen through a pair of binoculars, in this image obtained via social media. Surfrider Foundation Canada via Reuters
Fire cascades down from the deck of the container ship ZIM Kingston into the waters off the coast of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, October 23, 2021, as seen through a pair of binoculars, in this image obtained via social media. Surfrider Foundation Canada via Reuters

MONTREAL - The Canadian coast guard has evacuated 16 people from a burning container ship that is expelling toxic gas off Canada's Pacific coast, but there is "no safety risk" to those on shore, authorities said Sunday.

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 had been bound for Vancouver when the flames erupted, with the fire reported to the coast guard at around 11:00 pm local time Saturday, CBC News reported.

"The ship is on fire and expelling toxic gas," the Canadian coast guard said in a navigational warning on its website.

Later a statement on the coast guard's Twitter account said 16 people had been evacuated from the Zim Kingston "after a fire broke out in ten containers."

"The fire remains a dynamic event and an Incident Command Post has been set up to manage the situation, the statement early Sunday said, adding that responders were mobilizing to fight the fire and recover containers that broke away from the ship Friday.

"Currently there is no safety risk to people on shore, however the situation will continue to be monitored," the tweet said.

On Sunday the Coast Guard said an emergency zone around the ship had been expanded to two nautical miles, up from one mile the day before.

"Due to the nature of chemicals onboard the container ship, applying water directly to the fire is not an option," it said, adding that a tugboat had instead sprayed cold water on the hull.

Later, however, the vessel's manager Danaos Shipping said in a statement that the incident was caused by "excessive listing due to extreme weather," and indicated the fire was contained.

"No injuries were reported. The fire appears to have been contained and DANAOS have commissioned a Salvage & Fire Extinguishing Agency to come on board in order to ensure that conditions are appropriate for the safe return of the vessel's crew," the company added.

The coast guard said the ship is carrying more than 52,000 kilograms (115,000 pounds) of chemicals located in two of the containers that are on fire, according to CBC News.

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