Cargo Ship Leaking Flammable, Toxic Gas Catches Fire Off West Coast

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Early on Friday, October 22nd the container ship  MV Zim Kingston issued a distress call to the Canadian Coast Guard in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the crucial waterway that separates Vancouver from Washington. By 7 AM the container ship had lost some forty containers overboard in the heavy seas. Shortly after, reports began coming in that a fire had broken out on board in ten of the containers, at least two of which contained 57 tons of highly toxic xanthates, chemicals used in mining operations. The fire onboard has spewed toxic smoke into the strait where prevailing winds could carry them into Victoria or Vancouver, British Columbia, or the Seattle-Tacoma area of Washington.

Two of the approximately forty containers lost overboard also contained spontaneously flammable chemicals. The ship was finishing its voyage from Busan, South Korea, and is anchored in Canadian territorial waters.

“Two of the containers have been identified as carrying spontaneous combustibles,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Diolanda Caballero according to the Daily Mail.

Radio broadcasts from the Canadian Coast Guard indicated that the captain and crew were advised to abandon ship. “The advice is that you abandon, completely abandon, including all crew and captain” But responses from the Zim Kingston indicated that the crew had decided to remain in part, to fight the blaze.

Fireboats were deployed in an attempt to control the fire which was largely allowed to burn itself out due to its chemical nature, with water only used after to cool the adjacent containers and prevent the fire from spreading.

NBC News reported that

“Sixteen crew members were evacuated from the MV Zim Kingston off Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, the Canadian Coast Guard said in a statement late Saturday. Five crew members had remained onboard to fight the fire, it said.”

Burning Toxic Gas Off the Coast of Seattle and Vancouver

The Canadian Coast guard has detailed that gale-force winds are in the area due to a ‘bomb cyclone’ set to strike the entire Pacific Northwest and tweeted to the public that “Smoke coming from the vessel is being tracked from air quality monitoring stations around the Greater Victoria area and local health authorities are being provided with those results.”

The CCG continued to say as of this writing that due to heavy, weather salvage crews have been unable to board the Zim Kingston, and the containers continue to smolder. “Boundary Cooling” or spraying the hull and adjacent containers to prevent the fire spreading or flaring up continues. The Canadian Authorities added,

“There are currently no impacts to human health for residents of Greater Victoria but Incident Command continues to monitor the situation.”

 

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