An Italian-flagged cargo ship named Grande Costa d’Avorio, loaded with cars and other goods, smouldered for a third day.
Video Credits: ABC7 News Bay Area
The vessel docked at the East Coast’s biggest port, Newark, would likely burn for more days after the massive fire onboard the ship took the lives of 2 New Jersey firefighters, per officials.
The cause behind the fire will remain unknown as the investigation can start only once the fire is put out, per Coast Guard Capt: Zeita Merchant, the captain of the Port of New York and New Jersey.
About 20 firefighters, a salvage crew and a New York fireboat employed jets of water to contain the intense heat and fire, which spread on the 10th and 12th levels at the ship’s rear. High flames flared from the top level as well, per officials.
People involved in putting out the fire expressed difficulty in doing so since access to the top levels is difficult due to the extreme heat.
Gordon Lorenson from Donjon Marine, a salvage company helping in the task, mentioned that it’s like a steel box, and the situation is quite complex.
He added that five crew members poured water on the ship to extinguish the flames, but too much water pressure could make the vessel tilt. The ship had listed to the right slightly. However, it was stable, per Tom Wiker, president of Gallagher Marine Systems, representing the ship’s owner, the Grimaldi Group.
The Port Authority does not have its own firefighting agency and relies on local fire departments to assist in case of fires.
The death of the firefighters sparked the discussion about whether the firefighters should have been sent into harm’s way to put out the fire when no lives were at risk on the vessel with a 28-member crew.
Newark Public Safety Director Fritz Frage mentioned that they would have conversations regarding the training of firefighters for such situations. He also said that shipboard fires are different and can change rapidly.
“You can do all the training in the world, and you’re going to find something you’ve never seen before,” he added,
Newark Fire Chief Rufus Jackson said that the fire department had taken training on passenger ships but not the specific kind of cargo ship they were facing now.
The two firefighters who died in the blaze were Newark firefighters Augusto “Augie” Acabou and Wayne “Bear” Brooks Jr.
President Biden called their families and offered his condolences, per Michael Giunta, the Firefighters Union head. A memorial service in their honour was organised on Friday.
Roger Terry, Brooks’ uncle, called his nephew “a real-life Superman” who had always wanted to be a firefighter.
Firefighter Michael Johnson of Ladder 4 said Brooks “loved his life, loved his kids. He loved the job more than anything.”
Acabou’s cousin, Newark fire Capt. Carlos Henriques said that Acabou’s “sense of honour was unparalleled. And he consistently exemplified this through his actions. Everything he did was about helping others, going above and beyond for those in need.”
The cargo ship was constructed in 2011 and came from Baltimore Port many days ago. It was loaded with 1200 new and used cars, trucks and vans.
The fire started at 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday. After an hour, a mayday call informed that two firefighters were trapped inside the vessel. Rescue workers saved Acabou and took him to the hospital, where he breathed his last on Thursday morning. Brooks also died on the same day in the early morning. Five other firefighters were also injured.
Grimaldi Deep Sea stated that the ship’s crew activated the onboard fire suppression procedure and informed the local firefighting department. This led to a rapid response necessary for controlling the fire.
It also said that there were no cars or hazardous cargo on the ship, no fuel or oil spill was detected, and the ship’s stability was not compromised.
The cause of the fire is not known but will be thoroughly investigated in cooperation with the authorities, the statement added.
References: wtsp, wnep
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