Up to 270 containers had fallen off the Panamanian-flagged MSC ZOE, one of the world's biggest cargo ships, in rough weather near the German island of Borkum in the North Sea, the Dutch Coast Guard said on Wednesday.
The containers floated southwest toward Dutch waters and by mid-afternoon on Wednesday, more than 20 containers had washed up on the Dutch islands of Terschelling, Ameland and Vlieland.
The Coast Guard warned the public to stay away from the containers washed ashore because three containers holding hazardous materials had not yet been located. Ships in the area have also been warned to beware of floating containers.
Windfall for Dutch islanders
Dutch media reported that local treasure hunters had found an array of items, including light bulbs, car parts, Ikea furniture, clothing and toys, from the containers washed ashore.
Local media carried pictures showing a surge of curious people checking out what had washed up. A person was seen carrying off what appeared to be a flat-screen TV still packed in foam.
The residents of these islands have a centuries-old tradition of collecting goods that wash up on their shores.
Vlieland Mayor Tineke Schokker said the municipality doesn't mind scavenging.
"It's just really nice of people," she told local news agency ANP. "Processing it would cost more than the stuff is worth, and anyway with the two officers we have, it would be impossible to guard; the stuff is littered over the whole beach."
ap/ng (AP, Reuters, dpa)