Ships avoid gas carrier ablaze off Hong Kong


A fire was still raging this evening on a ship carrying 20,000 tonnes of liquefied petroleum gas anchored off Hong Kong which officials fear could explode.

Ships were ordered to keep at least 10 miles away in case the gas explodes, said a spokesman for the Hong Kong Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre.

"The fire is still raging on the superstructure of the ship," Captain Ravi Dewan said. "The fire in the engine room appears to have burned out. The ship is anchored so the wind is luckily blowing in such a way that the opportunity for the fire to spread to the cargo hold is very minimal.

He said: "Flames can be seen. If the wind keeps blowing the way it is it might burn out."

Earlier, Dewan warned "it'll be a major, major explosion" if the gas on the Panamanian-registered Gaz Poemcatches fire.

Asked what the chances are of the fire burning out safely, he said: "We just pray. We hope so." All 34 crew were rescued by passing ships after it caught early today about 30 kilometres southeast of Hong Kong. No one was injured.

The fire apparently started in the engine room of the 44,000-tonne gas carrier, which had left Hong Kong on November 20th for a mainland port.