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Indian Killed As Ship Catches Fire Off Dutch Coast; EV May Have Been Cause

Indian Killed As Ship Catches Fire Off Dutch Coast; EV May Have Been Cause

The Indian Embassy in Netherlands said it is in touch with the family of the dead sailor.


An Indian crew member was killed and 20 others were injured after a major fire broke out on a cargo vessel carrying nearly 3,000 cars off the Netherlands coast. An electric vehicle, one of 25 on board, is suspected to have caused the fire. 

The fire broke out on Tuesday night on an 18,500-tonne Panama-registered vessel, the Fremantle Highway, which was en route from Germany to Egypt. Crew members tried to douse the blaze and some were forced to jump overboard when their efforts were unsuccessful, said a report by news agency PTI.  

Confirming the death of an Indian crew member, the Indian Embassy in the Netherlands tweeted, “We are deeply saddened by the incident involving Ship ‘Fremantle Highway’ in North Sea, resulting in the death of an Indian seafarer & injuries to the crew. Embassy of India is in touch with family of the deceased & is assisting in repatriation of the mortal remains.”

The embassy said it is extending all possible assistance. “Embassy is also in touch with the remaining 20 injured crew members, who are safe and receiving medical attention. All possible assistance is being extended in coordination with the Dutch authorities and the shipping company,” it said in another tweet.

Rescue boats and helicopters were used to get the 23 crew members off the ship after some had jumped in the water, a spokesperson for the Dutch coastguard told CNN. The report said there are fears that the vessel could sink 27 km north of the Dutch island, Ameland, off the Wadden Sea – a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is considered one of the most important regions for migratory birds in the world. 

A Dutch coastguard official said firefighters were still struggling to put out the fire on the cargo ship nearly 16 hours after the blaze started. It could take hours, days, or even weeks to make sure the fire is completely put out, coastguard spokesperson Edwin Grammeman told Dutch broadcaster NOS, adding that it is currently too dangerous to put firefighters on the ship.

“If you start filling the ship with water, you risk destabilising it, and that could tip it over,” Mr Grammerman said. 

The fire may have been started by one of the 25 electric cars on board, a coastguard official told NOS. 

The PTI report said a distress call came when the ship was about 30 km off the coast of Ameland. The 23 crew members attempted to put out the fire themselves, but the blaze spread too fast. Dutch news outlets reported that specialised firefighters were brought in from Rotterdam, but the situation had already become too dangerous by the time they arrived. 

Seven of the crew jumped into the sea and were picked up by nearby ships. The remaining crew members were rescued by helicopters. It is not clear how the person who died was killed, the reports said.

The authorities are now focusing their efforts on preventing the listing ship from sinking. A tugboat was able to attach a rope to the Fremantle Highway and prevent it from drifting into shipping lanes. Other boats are on standby to try to help pull the vessel to safety, said the PTI report. 

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