Merchant vessel catches fire off Mumbai coast

A major fire broke out in a merchant vessel MV Amsterdam Bridge off Mumbai coast this afternoon, Coast Guard officials said.

The ship had reached just four nautical miles from Prongs Reef Lighthouse in south Mumbai and was carrying hazardous cargo, sources said. According to the sources, the operations room of the coast guard received a fire call at 5.15 pm from the captain of Antigua and Barbuda-flagged cargo vessel.

Even though only two ships-- ICGS Samudra Prahari and ICGS Subhadra Kumari Chouhan-- were initially sent to contain the fire, later on two more ships -ICGS Sankalp and ICGS Sangram- were also pressed into fire fighting.

An emergency towing vessel (ETV) was also sent to the spot. The crew of the 54,405 tonne vessel is believed to be safe, sources said.

Though the fire suspected to have started somewhere near the engine room, soon it spread to other parts, the officer said adding that by late evening the middle portion of the ship had caught fire.

The vessel carried hazardous and noxious substance (HNS), which signifies that the ship is carrying substance, apart from oil, which, when released into marine environment, will have detrimental effect on the human and marine life.

The HNS has made the fire-fighting and rescue operation more difficult for the Coast Guard. The ship had reached the JNPT on September 8 and left for Colombo after loading the containers. It was supposed to reach Colombo on Tuesday.

The officers said that it is only after extinguishing the fire, the estimate of the damage of the ship could be evaluated.

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