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One dead after ship carrying 3,000 cars catches fire off Dutch coast

<i>Nico Gudema</i><br/>One person died and several others are wounded after a large fire broke out on a cargo ship off the Dutch coast around midnight local time
Nico Gudema
One person died and several others are wounded after a large fire broke out on a cargo ship off the Dutch coast around midnight local time

By Martin Goillandeau, Mick Krever, Radina Gigova and Caolán Magee, CNN

(CNN) — A fire broke out on a ship off the Dutch coast with around 3,000 cars on board on Wednesday, killing one person and injuring several others, the coastguard said.

Rescue boats and helicopters were used to get the 23 crew members off the ship after some had jumped in the water, a spokesperson for the Dutch coast guard told CNN on Wednesday.

Pictures show gray smoke emitting from the ship amid fears the vessel could sink 27 kilometers north of the Dutch island, Ameland, off the Wadden Sea – a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is considered one of the most important regions for migratory birds in the world.

The ship – which sails under the flag of Panama – was on its way from Bremerhaven in Germany to Port Said in Egypt, according to CNN affiliate and Dutch national broadcaster NOS.

The fire may have been started by one of the 25 electric cars on board, according to NOS, but the coast guard spokesperson told CNN that the cause is still under investigation.

Around midnight local time on Wednesday, the Coast Guard received a report from the ship signaling a fire on board.

The crew tried to extinguish the fire themselves but were unsuccessful, according to the coast guard.

As the fire continued to spread, several crew members jumped overboard.

“The people had to get off,” skipper Willard Molenaar from the Ameland rescue ship told NOS. “One after another they jumped and we fished them out of the water.” The ship with the cars is around 30 meters high, according to Molenaar. “They were really in need and that’s why they had to jump. You don’t just do that,” he added.

All 23 crew members disembarked via helicopters and rescue boats, but one of them died and several got injured, the coast guard said.

The rest of the sailors were pulled from the ship by helicopter and no one remains on the ship, according to NOS.

“The ship is still on fire. The recovery vessel Hunter has an emergency connection to the ship and is holding the ship in a controlled position. Multiple parties are working on an action plan to limit the damage as much as possible,” the coast guard said in a post on Twitter.

The coast guard added that the crew members were taken to the nearby coastal village of Lauwersoog and others to Groningen airport in Eelde and were taken care of by paramedics.

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