MEMBERS of the Walvis Bay Fire Brigade along with tug crews and safety personnel from the Namibian Ports Authority have been battling for hours to extinguish a fire the broke out on board a fishing vessel.
The MV Ocean Tide was moored at the jetty of the Seawork Fish Processors in Walvis Bay when the fire broke out earlier on Saturday and fears are that one person might still be trapped in the smoke.
“The fire started after a crew of five men was working with an angle grinder in one of the holds below the deck of the vessel. It is suspected that the sparks from their power tools ignited other flammable materials nearby which caused the fire. We know for certain that four of the technicians made it to the safety of the jetty and we are still trying to ascertain if another is trapped on board,” said one of the firemen at the scene.
One of the senior officers of the vessel said that they are very concerned because one of the men might still be on board.
“At this stage we have to wait for the fire fighters to extinguish the fire before we can confirm anything.”
Two Namport tugs also responded to the fire on board the fishing vessel. The crew of the tug used the fire extinguishing water canon on board to direct a thick stream of water at the side of the burning vessel.
Port Captain Lukas Kaufuna who was also on scene to direct part of the operation to extinguish the fire could not say with any certainty if anyone was still trapped on board the Ocean Tide.
The huge amount of water directed by the fire fighters’ hoses on board the vessel and the Namport tug caused the vessel to start listing dangerously while it was moored at the jetty because of it gathering in the bottom of the hull.
In this regard the help of Walvis Bay Diving was needed to put mobile pumps on deck with pipes down the hatches to pump the water inside the hull of the vessel out to sea to keep it from capsizing at the quay.
The pumps allowed fire fighters and other emergency crews to start the vessel’s auxiliary engine on order for the bilge pumps to help pump more water out of the hull to keep the boat from capsizing.
The fire that started in one of the holds below decks spread to the upper decks of the vessel and completely engulfed the wheelhouse and crew living quarters. Heat from the fire inside the hull caused the paint on the outside to blister and peel off and water from fire hoses turned to steam the moment it made contact with the hull steel.