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Fire breaks out on cargo ship off Canada, expelling toxic gas

The blaze was related to two damaged containers carrying a dangerous chemical, said the Canadian Coast Guard, which set up an emergency zone around the ship.
Image: The container ship Zim Kingston burns from a fire off the coast of Victoria
Smoke rises from the containership Zim Kingston, burning from a fire on board, off Victoria, British Columbia, on Saturday.Canadian Coast Guard / Reuters

An emergency zone was declared around a blazing cargo ship off western Canada after containers carrying more than 50 tons of a dangerous chemical caught fire.

Sixteen crew members were evacuated from the MV Zim Kingston off Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, the Canadian Coast Guard said in a statement late Saturday. Five crew members had remained onboard to fight the fire, it said.

A notice on the Coast Guard’s Navigational Warnings website said the fire was "expelling toxic gas."

Video obtained by Reuters showed fire cascading down from the deck into the water.

Ten containers were burning, according to the Coast Guard, which said the fire was continuing to spread. Two of the containers were carrying around 57 tons of xanthates, a chemical often used in mining.

An "emergency zone" has been set up for 1 nautical mile around the ship while firefighting operations are underway.  

A Canadian Coast Guard spokesperson told Global News network that the fire was "related to two damaged containers carrying hazardous materials."

A fire on the deck of the containership Zim Kingston on Saturday. Lloyd Mildon / Reuters

The agency tweeted early Sunday that there was "currently ... no safety risk to people on shore," adding, "However, the situation will continue to be monitored."

The ship itself was not on fire, the Coast Guard said.

Canadian officials said they were working with their U.S. counterparts to track 40 containers that had fallen overboard, saying they pose a significant risk to mariners. 

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The Zim Kingston reported Friday that it had encountered rough weather west of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which separates Washington state and Vancouver Island.

Vessel Finder website data show that the Zim Kingston was built in 2008, that it sails under the Maltese flag and that it was en route to Vancouver when the fire broke out.