Six people killed after a ship caught fire at Durban harbour
Six people have been killed after a ship caught fire at Durban harbour. The fire broke out aboard a fishing trawler on Thursday afternoon, 14 February 2019. The vessel was in for repairs when the blaze broke out. Zibuse Ngcece, assistant chief fire officer at eThekwini Fire and Emergency Services said, “Our emergency control room received a call at 14h12 on Thursday and mobilised Central, Congella, Jacobs and Mobeni Fire Stations. We had five fire appliances, a foam carrier, foam tender and chemical incident unit, as well as 14 fire fighters, five officers, two division commanders and a regional commander. The first arriving appliance booked in attendance at 14h22.”
Ngcece says that when brigade arrived, they found a fishing trawler alight. The vessel’s name was Tropical. There were some explosions due to LPG and acetylene gas bottles on board. Brigade used several hand lines including foam line to try and extinguish fire. He says there were three people injured due to smoke inhalation and six reported missing.
Transnet had earlier used their tugs in attempting to fight the fire. The vessel got flooded in that process which resulted in the vessel becoming tilted at an angle of 45 degrees. Fire fighting was called off due to a potential of sinking the vessel. Transnet arranged for Spilltech to assist by pumping the water out and stabilising the vessel.
“At about 21h00, we re-assessed the vessel stability and we were convinced that it was safe for fire fighting operations to resume. The vessel stability had improved about half a metre. A crew of four fire fighters and an officer were led by Division Commander Dube and commenced on-board offensive fire fighting as well as searching for the six reported personnel,” Said Ngcece. “The fire was more intense around accommodation and area engine room areas. There were some challenges in terms of access to these areas, however the crew made their way through. Three blue codes were discovered within first 20 to 25 minutes of aggressive fire fighting attack and they were burnt beyond recognition. The last three bodies were found submerged in a pool of water inside the engine compartment,” he added.
The fire itself was extinguished around 23h30 and damping continued until 1h00. The incident was then downscaled to a single fire appliance with four fighters and an officer remaining on scene overnight in case of any hot spot flare ups.
Ngcece says they then handed over the incident to South African Police Services (SAPS) Forensic Unit to secure whatever possible evidence that may assist in investigating the cause of this fire. The bodies were brought to surface by fire fighters and handed over to Provincial Health Mortuary personnel.
The following services were in attendance; Transnet Ports Authority (TNPA) Fire, SAPS, Spilltech, Port Manager, Provincial Ambulance Services, Provincial Mortuary personnel and Department of Labour (DoL).
Source: Zibuse Ngcece Assistant Chief Fire Officer eThekwini Fire and Emergency Services