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Stranded freighter 'Purple Beach' at risk of exploding in North Sea

A damaged cargo ship carrying fertilizer is stranded off the coast of Heligoland, emitting foul smelling smoke. Authorities say the cargo ship is at risk of exploding.

Smoke is billowing from the Purple Beach, a freighter stranded 30 kilometers west of the German North Sea island of Heligoland. A strong smell of fertilizer fumes has reached the coast, according to maritime authorities in the coastal town of Cuxhaven.

A spokesman for the maritime emergency response coordinators said several people had called the police overnight, complaining of a strange smell. He said the fumes were not dangerous to people or the environment at present, but advised coastal residents of large parts of the western part of Lower Saxony to keep doors and windows shut.

The Purple Beach is still at risk of exploding, while surveillance planes are trying to fight the smoke by spraying water. All 22 crew have been evacuated; no one was seriously hurt.

On Monday evening, the crew had spotted smoke coming from one of the holds of the 192-meter (630-foot) ship. It is not clear yet whether the smoke is caused by a fire or a chemical reaction that also triggers extreme heat.

Authorities have ordered other ships to avoid the area around the damaged freighter by a five-kilometer radius.

ng/jil (dpa, AFP)