Cargo ship on fire, spews toxic gas off Canada's Pacific coast

Smoke rising from the Zim Kingston ship off the coast British Columbia, on Oct 23, 2021. It is unclear what caused the blaze. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP, REUTERS) - A container ship has caught fire and is expelling toxic gas off Canada's Pacific coast, the authorities said late on Saturday (Oct 23).

The Zim Kingston ship carrying mining chemicals had been bound for Vancouver when the flames erupted, with the fire reported to the coast guard around 11pm local time, CBC News reported.

"The ship is on fire and expelling toxic gas," the Canadian Coast Guard said in a statement on its website, adding that the vessel remains anchored off the coast of British Columbia.

"An emergency zone has been established at Constance Bank within one mile (1.6km) of the anchored container ship Zim Kingston."

It is unclear what caused the blaze.

The coast guard said the ship is carrying more than 52,000kg of chemicals located in two of the containers that are on fire, CBC News said.

Sixteen crew members have been evacuated, while five remained on board to fight the fire.

Ten containers were currently burning, the coast guard said, adding the fire continued to spread but the ship itself was not on fire.

The agency said it was working with its United States counterpart to track 40 containers that had fallen overboard, saying they pose a significant risk to mariners.

"Mariners are advised to stay clear of the area. Currently there is no safety risk to people on shore, however the situation will continue to be monitored."

Video showed fire cascading down from the deck of the ship into the water.

The Zim Kingston reported on Friday that it had encountered rough weather west of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

"This is extremely concerning. The ship and containers are very close to Victoria, BC, and a big storm is forecast to hit tonight. We... are worried this may be yet another environmental disaster," said Mr David Boudinot, president of Surfrider Foundation Canada, an environmental organisation.

Eikon Refinitiv data shows the Maltese-flagged Zim Kingston is managed by Cyprus-based Danaos Shipping.

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