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7 Die as Ships Collide in North Sea; Burning Gasoline Spilled

June 04, 1993|From Associated Press

OOSTENDE, Belgium — A British oil tanker collided in thick fog with a cargo ship and burst into flames Thursday, killing at least seven and spewing tons of burning gasoline into the North Sea.

Firefighters extinguished the flames Thursday afternoon, more than 10 hours after the tanker British Trent collided with the Western Winner, a Panamanian-registered cargo ship, off this North Sea resort.

Two crew members from the tanker were still missing, and six crew members suffered burns, including the ship's captain. No one from the cargo ship was hurt.

Klaus Brusselmans of the Belgian Interior Ministry said there would be little environmental damage since most of the leaked gasoline burned or evaporated.

However, the environmentalist group Greenpeace warned that chemicals from the gasoline could hurt marine life.

"Once again we have a major oil disaster in European waters," Greenpeace campaigner Paul Horsman said in a statement.

The British tanker, carrying a crew of 36 and 24,000 tons of unleaded gasoline, was traveling from the Belgian port of Antwerp to Fiumicino near Rome, said the owners, British Petroleum Group PLC.

Many of the British Trent's crew members jumped into the water after the collision.

"There was no time for anything. We tried to get into the (life) boats and then the flames came," seaman Ian Rippon said.

Two of the dead were British, two were Irish and two were from Sierra Leone in West Africa, said Raymond Vereecken, general manager of Henri Serruys hospital in Oostende. He said the seventh body had not been identified.

Rescue workers said there was little chance of finding the missing crew members alive.

Thursday's collision was the worst accident off Belgium's coast since 1987, when 188 people died after the British ferry Herald of Free Enterprise sank while leaving the port of Zeebrugge.

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