Mumbai News: Fire on board Maersk's ship rages; one crew member dies

Mar 09, 2018, 09:00 IST | PTI

A Thai national, who was among the 23 seamen rescued from the container ship of Maersk Line that caught fire in the Arabian Sea off the Lakshadweep coast, has died, officials said today

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A Thai national, who was among the 23 seamen rescued from the container ship of Maersk Line that caught fire in the Arabian Sea off the Lakshadweep coast, has died, officials said today. The fire continued for the second consecutive day today, and hopes of finding four missing crew members, including an Indian, "faded", officials said.

The deceased crew member breathed his last while being taken to Colombo in the merchant ship which rescued them. The death and deteriorating health of two others led the company to divert the merchant ship to Kochi, where it is expected to anchor late tonight, Maersk chief operating officer Soren Toft told PTI over phone from its headquarters in Copenhagen. The huge fire continued on the 330-metre stationary vessel located in the Arabian Sea, about 340 nautical miles off Lakshadweep's Agatti island.

Videos showed huge smoke billowing out from a part of the vessel and efforts by an Indian Coast Guard (ICG) ship, "Shoor", to douse the flames. Toft said the ICG is coordinating both the firefighting as well as search and rescue efforts, and has called out for more help from merchant vessels passing through the busy shipping route. The company has also commissioned a heavy duty ship specialising in firefighting to help extinguish the blaze, he said. Toft said the company will keep on searching for the missing crew members but conceded that the "hope is fading".

Two of the rescued crew members, whose condition deteriorated, disembarked from the container ship ALS Ceres, which helped in the rescue, and taken to a hospital in Thiruvananthapuram by the ICG, he said, adding they are accompanied by a fit crew member well versed in Malayalam. An ICG spokesperson said the ship is spewing out toxic smoke and the duo are showing signs of toxic gas inhalation. ALS Ceres will be docking at Kochi late tonight with 19 crew members, including 11 Indians, who will be immediately given necessary medical and psychological help, he said. Asked about the cause of the fire, Toft said it is too early to "speculate" on that.

The fire started from cargo hold number 3 on the vessel located close to the crew accommodation, he said. The crew decided to jump ship after multiple efforts at containing the flames failed, he said. Without specifying the quantity, Toft said a few of the over 7,800 containers on board had cargo classified as "dangerous". He, however, said it is premature to blame them for the fire and added that shipping lines regularly carry such cargo in the containers.

The ship has a capacity to carry 15,000 standard 20-foot equivalent (TEUs) containers and was carrying over 12,000 TEUs on the voyage from Singapore to Suez when the incident occurred on Tuesday. The company's efforts are directed towards saving the ship commissioned only last year, he said. "The fire is still blazing, the situation is still critical...very, very seldom that we have incidents of this severity," Toft said.

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