20 injured Indian crew members rescued from burning ship off the Dutch coast return home

An Indian crew member was killed and 20 others were injured in the fire that broke out on July 25 on board the Panama-registered ship Fremantle Highway

August 04, 2023 02:33 pm | Updated 02:33 pm IST - London

This handout photograph taken from the Coast Guard aircraft and released on August 3, 2023 by the Dutch coastguards, shows the Panamanian-registered car carrier ship Fremantle Highway arriving in the northern Dutch port of Eemhaven, one week after a fire broke out late on July 25, 2023, killing one crew member, and prompting a massive effort to extinguish the flames. One sailor died and 22 others were rescued after the Panamanian-flagged ship, carrying hundreds of electric cars among more than 3,700 vehicles, caught fire off the Dutch coast on July 25.

This handout photograph taken from the Coast Guard aircraft and released on August 3, 2023 by the Dutch coastguards, shows the Panamanian-registered car carrier ship Fremantle Highway arriving in the northern Dutch port of Eemhaven, one week after a fire broke out late on July 25, 2023, killing one crew member, and prompting a massive effort to extinguish the flames. One sailor died and 22 others were rescued after the Panamanian-flagged ship, carrying hundreds of electric cars among more than 3,700 vehicles, caught fire off the Dutch coast on July 25. | Photo Credit: AFP

A group of 20 injured Indian crew members rescued after a major fire broke out on board a cargo vessel carrying nearly 3,800 cars off the Netherlands coast have safely returned home while the mortal remains of one sailor who was killed in the incident are being repatriated, Indian authorities have said.

An Indian crew member was killed and 20 others were injured in the fire that broke out on July 25 on board the Panama-registered ship Fremantle Highway, which was en route from Germany to Egypt. Several crew members were forced to jump overboard.

The ship was manned entirely by Indians.

"20 Indian crew rescued from ship Fremantle Highway have safely returned to India over the past week. Thank Dutch authorities for their support & assistance as well as our sailors for their fortitude & courage through this difficult time," the Indian Embassy in the Hague said on platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

"Mortal remains of one crew member who unfortunately passed away are being repatriated," it said.

The crippled ship has been towed into port in the north-east of the Netherlands.

The Dutch coast guard stressed the cause of the fire on the 11-deck ship was unknown and authorities were careful not to speculate. But an audio recording emerged of one rescue worker suggesting it had started in the battery of an electric vehicle and "it appears an electric vehicle exploded too", BBC said.

Of the 3,783 cars on board the ship, 498 were electric vehicles.

The fire started on an upper deck and salvage experts said that while four of the ship's decks were relatively undamaged in the hull, the eighth deck had partly collapsed because of the intensity of the fire.

The 21 crew members on board the ship had attempted to put out the fire themselves, but the blaze spread too fast. Specialised firefighters were brought in from Rotterdam but the situation had already become too dangerous by the time they arrived.

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