High winds stall efforts to tow a burning cargo ship packed with cars off northern Dutch coast

July 30, 2023  -THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — High winds blowing across the North Sea are delaying efforts to tow a burning cargo ship loaded with thousands of new cars to safety off the Dutch coast, the government said Sunday. The Fremantle Highway was unlikely to be moved Sunday because of the southwesterly wind, according to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management.

“The wind will continue to blow from the southwest for the next few days. The towing of the Fremantle Highway to the new temporary location may therefore still take several days to start,” the ministry said in an update Saturday night.

“The smoke from the fire and the wind direction mean that during the towing operation of the ship smoke is blowing over the tugboat,” it added.

Salvage crews on Saturday attached a second towing cable to the ship, which is transporting 3,783 new vehicles, including 498 electric vehicles, from the German port of Bremerhaven to Singapore. The salvage teams ultimately want to tow the stricken ship to a port but it is not yet clear where or when that will happen.

The ship has been burning since Tuesday. Firefighters decided not to douse the flames with water for fear of making the nearly 200-meters (219-yard) ship unstable as it floats close to North Sea shipping lanes and a world-renowned migratory bird habitat.

One crew member died and others were injured after the fire broke out. The crew was evacuated in the early hours of Wednesday.

The cause of the fire has not been determined.

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