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Stricken freighter at risk of exploding in North Sea

27 May 2015

The freighter Purple Beach was en route from Immingham in the north-east of England to the German port of Brake when fire broke out in the hold on the night of May 25. The 22-strong crew abandoned the vessel a day later some 40km north of the German coast and 30km west of the island of Helgoland amid fears that its cargo of fertiliser could explode. 

The crew were accompanied back to the shore by firefighters, who had earlier attempted unsuccessfully tried to put out the blaze.

As of May 27, Germany's Central Command for Maritime Emergencies told residents on the North German coast to keep windows and doors shut after a strong smell was reported in the area, which has been traced to the foul-smelling smoke from the stricken vessel.

The 192m-long (630ft) Marshall Islands-registered ship was still well alight on May 29 and German authorities said there was a danger it might explode. German media said patrol aircraft were dropping water to control the blaze.

A total of 36 people were taken to hospital for treatment for inhaling toxic gas, although no-one was said to be in a serious condition.

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