MONTEVIDEO – A fishing boat carrying 300 tons of fuel and which may have had around 40 crewmembers on board – all of whom apparently abandoned ship safely – is burning in Montevideo Bay, Uruguayan fire authorities said Sunday.
The fire department said the boat is of Chinese origin but operating under a flag of convenience, and it was on the point of setting sail for the South Atlantic fishing grounds on Saturday when the fire broke out in the engine room and quickly spread to engulf the vessel.
“We’re waiting for the fuel to be consumed because if we continue spraying water what we’re going to do is sink it and spill the fuel, creating an ecological disaster,” Fire Department spokesman Ricardo Piriz told EFE.
The vessel has been declared a total loss and has been towed to a secure location in the bay so that the fuel can burn itself out. It is under constant observation by firefighters and authorities expect it to continue burning all day Sunday.
About 62 cylinders of various gases were able to be removed from the boat, since they “could have caused a chain explosion,” Piriz said.
The incident was responded to, first, by Montevideo Port firefighters and later by a detachment from the Fire Department itself.