Islands hit as 270 containers fall off ship

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Extensive debris has washed up on islands off the Dutch north coast after some 270 containers including chemicals fell off a cargo ship in a storm.

As the extent of pollution became clear on five islands including Terschelling, coastguards searched the North Sea for missing containers.

The cargo fell off the MSC Zoe near the German island of Borkum, but the tide carried many of them to the south-west.

Initial images showed children’s toys and TVs on Dutch beaches.

But officials said three missing containers carried a toxic powder of organic peroxide, and Dutch and German coastguards warned local people to steer clear of them.

The Panama-registered ship is described as the biggest in Europe, with a potential cargo of 19,000 containers.

As Storm Zeetje buffeted northern Germany with gale force winds late on Tuesday night, 270 containers of Zoe’s cargo fell off the ship and into the Wadden Sea.

By Wednesday morning, strong tides had already swept some of the containers on to beaches on Terschelling, Vlieland and Ameland and coastguards were scouring the sea for the others.

There were fears that other shipping could be damaged by the cargo. The Geneva-based MSC company which owns the ship has asked a salvage company to use sonar equipment to help retrieve the missing containers.

Overnight into Thursday, the MSC Zoe docked at Bremerhaven. Several containers were spotted in German waters and a further 11 were seen by the Dutch coastguard floating between the islands of Ameland and Schiermonnikoog.