Dangerous powder from lost cargo found on Dutch island

Volunteers handling washed up content from containers from Panamian-flagged MSC Zoe container vessel in Moddergat, The Netherlands, on Jan 3, 2019.
Volunteers handling washed up content from containers from Panamian-flagged MSC Zoe container vessel in Moddergat, The Netherlands, on Jan 3, 2019.PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Lost containers of the Panamian-flagged MSC Zoe vessel in the water of the North Sea, off the German and Dutch coast, on Jan 2, 2019.
Lost containers of the Panamian-flagged MSC Zoe vessel in the water of the North Sea, off the German and Dutch coast, on Jan 2, 2019.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

THE HAGUE (AFP) - A bag containing dangerous powder washed up on a small Dutch island on Thursday (Jan 3), a day after some 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 25 kilogrammes of powder was found on the beach of Schiermonnikoog,” Jan-Willem Zwart, spokesman for the security services in the region, told AFP.

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.

Coastguards 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, around 20 containers have been located near the shores of these islands while another six were found in German waters.

Following appeals from officials in the affected islands, the Dutch ministry of defence announced soldiers would arrive Friday to help the clean-up 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 brigade.

“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 took the incident “very seriously, both in terms of the impact of such accidents on the natural environment and in terms of any damage to customers’ cargo”.

The firm said it had appointed a salvage company to help retrieve cargo and the clean-up 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 television.

The MSC Zoe, which berthed at the northern German port of Bremerhaven late Wednesday, is one of the world’s largest container vessels at 396m long and 59m wide. It was built in 2015.