Sat, Jan 05, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Dangerous powder washes up on Dutch island

AFP, THE HAGUE, Netherlands

A volunteer helps with a cleanup operation on the coast at Terschelling, Netherlands, on Thursday after shipping containers were lost at sea by a cargo ship caught in a storm.

Photo: AP

A bag containing dangerous powder on Thursday washed up on a small Dutch island, a day after about 270 containers tumbled from one of the world’s biggest cargo ships in rough weather, as authorities scramble to clean debris-strewn beaches.

Frisian Island authorities, which said the bag was found closed, identified the powder as “organic peroxide,” a highly flammable substance used in making plastics.

“A bag containing 25kg of powder was found on the beach of Schiermonnikoog,” said Jan-Willem Zwart, spokesman for the security services in the region.

The Panama-registered MSC Zoe, which was mostly carrying toys, furniture and auto parts, lost the containers late on Tuesday while battling a storm off the Frisian Islands, an archipelago off the northwestern Dutch coast also known as the Wadden Islands.

The coast guard said three containers that had been transporting organic peroxide on the MSC Zoe have not been located and are thought to have sunk.

So far, about 20 containers have been located near the shores of the islands, while another six were found in German waters.

Following appeals from officials in the affected islands, the Dutch Ministry of Defense said troops would be sent yesterday to help the cleanup operation on coastlines strewn with rubbish, notably polystyrene.

Volunteers have been helping collect items washed up on the beaches, which “look like a mess,” Zwart said.

Authorities have warned volunteers and locals not to touch any bags, but to call police or the fire department.

“We strongly advise residents and people who have come to clean the beaches to ... immediately seek medical attention if they come into contact with the bags [containing organic peroxide],” Zwart said, warning that the chemical substance “can cause burns.”

On the tiny island of Ameland “130,000kg of debris has already been collected from 8km of beach”, the authorities said in a tweet.

In a statement, shipping firm MSC Mediterranean Shipping said it had appointed a salvage company to help retrieve cargo and help with the cleanup, and had deployed ships equipped with sonar after what it described as a “substantial spill of containers.”

Dutch broadcaster NOS on Wednesday broadcast footage of locals gathered around one of the containers, with toys and other materials strewn across the beach and one man carrying off a flat-screen TV.

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