Chemical Tanker Wreckage Raised | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 14.07.2004
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Chemical Tanker Wreckage Raised

Hamburg firemen on Saturday raised a chemical tanker that collided with a ship in the city's port on Monday. Salvage efforts had been hampered by fears of an explosion.


Firefighters raised the wreck with the help of cranes

The "ENA 2", a chemical tanker carrying 960 tons of sulphuric acid, collided with a container ship in the port of Hamburg on Monday. Since then, efforts to clear the wreckage had been hampered by fears of an explosion: when sulphuric acid mixes with water, it creates sulphurous, presenting the danger that the highly flammable fumes could explode.

Thus, firefighters have been treading lightly, taking time to come-up with a plan to set the tanker -- now resting bottom-up -- right and pump-out the remaining acid.

On Saturday, those involved in the rescue operation said that the tanker's entire load had leaked into the water.

Despite these revised figures, local environmental authorities and Greenpeace experts say a major environmental disaster has been avoided.

"In light of these new facts, Hamburg has been extraordinarily lucky," said Greenpeace shipping expert Christian Bussau, adding that the port would probably recover from the accident within a few months.

Due to the danger of an explosion, the salvage operation had been progressing slowly with a particular emphasis on safety.

The tanks were filled with non-flammable nitrogen before the ship was turned upright slowly with the help of cranes.

Major disaster was avoided

At the time of the collision, the driver had a blood alcohol level more than twice the legal limit, according to authorities. He now faces serious charges carrying a sentence of up to five years in jail and will never be allowed to drive a ship again, according to officials.

Considering the tanker's load, it's a miracle that the disaster did not result in a greater number of injuries and more far-reaching environmental damage, experts said. Eleven people were treated at the time of the explosion for injuries to the respiratory tract and it is estimated that 1,000 fish in the immediate vicinity were killed.

"We were lucky that there wasn't a further chemical reaction," said Jörg Feddern, another expert for Greenpeace. "That is likely due to the fact that the acid leaked out slowly."

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