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Empty Ferry Ablaze in Baltic Sea After Explosion

Empty Ferry Ablaze in Baltic Sea After Explosion

A firefighting vessel, bottom, tries to extinguish a fire on the car ferry Lisco Gloria in the Baltic Sea, on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2010. The maritime emergencies center in Cuxhaven said that an explosion apparently occurred on the Lisco Gloria at about midni

Associated Press

October 09, 2010

BERLIN — A 650-foot ferry was ablaze in the Baltic Sea on Saturday after an explosion on the upper deck, officials said. Firefighting ships stopped spraying the vessel, fearing that it would capsize and spill around 170 tons of fuel.

There were 204 passengers and 32 crew members who were rescued by six ships that moved in to help after the explosion on the Lisco Gloria around midnight. Three were taken to hospitals by helicopter and another 19 were slightly injured, police said.

German officials and the ferry said the blast appeared to have been a technical mishap.

“We assume at the moment that it was an accident,” Wolfgang Harlos, a spokesman for Germany’s Central Command for Maritime Emergencies told German news agency DAPD.

TV footage showed a fire on the top deck, while the decks below appeared to be gutted by the fire.

“People were lucky because it all happened on a major shipping route, that’s why the other vessels were quickly on hand to rescue people,” Ulrike Windhoevel, the spokeswoman for Germany’s Central Command for Maritime Emergencies in Cuxhaven, told The Associated Press.

The Danish navy allowed the blaze to burn — firefighting aboard the ship was halted because “there’s a possibility it could capsize if we continue,” a duty commander said. No oil had spilled, he said.

“At the moment there are four ships at the scene, with more on their way. Their primary purpose is an environmental protection service. If there is an oil spill we can cordon off the scene,” said the duty commander, who declined to be named in line with Danish military policy.

The Lithuanian-flagged ferry was traveling from the German port of Kiel to Klaipeda, Lithuania, authorities said.

Passengers and crew were evacuated by lifeboat and taken by another ferry to a naval base near Kiel, officials and the shipping company DFDS said. The passengers were mostly Lithuanians, DFDS spokesman Gert Jakobsen said.

Authorities said a four-person team was lowered to the ferry by helicopter and managed to anchor the vessel off the southern tip of the Danish island Langeland to keep it from drifting farther ashore.

Associated Press Writer Keith Moore in Stockholm contributed to this report.

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