Smoke continued to pour from an Italian ship docked at Port Newark in New Jersey on Friday, more than 36 hours after vehicles stored on the ship burst into flames and started a fast-moving fire that killed two Newark firefighters.
The US Coast Guard took control of the firefighting operation late Thursday after heavy smoke began billowing from the ship, the Grand Costa d’Ivorio, and loud sounds were heard coming from inside its 12-deck interior.
Early Friday, officials said they were still trying to contain the fire from outside the ship and cool it without filling the ship with too much water, which could cause it to capsize into a channel that flows into Newark Bay and, further afield. , the Atlantic.
The ship carries approximately 1,200 used and new vehicles, many of them at least partially filled with gasoline and oil.
“Our goal is always to get it back to what we call an even keel, which is level,” said Gordon Lorenson, project manager for Donjon Marine, a salvage and dredging company involved in the firefighting effort.
The fire erupted just before 9:30 pm on Wednesday on the 10th deck of the ship and spread rapidly to two upper decks. In the initial response, firefighters from around the region went aboard the ship to try to knock down the fire. Two Newark firefighters, Augusto Acabou, 45, and Wayne Brooks Jr., 49, died in the effort.
Officials said firefighters will not be able to re-enter the ship until the fire is contained and cooled. Fireboats continued to douse the fire with water from the canal early Friday. A similar amount of water was pumped from the ship to prevent it from listing further, officials said.
Since it started, the fire has burned at temperatures so extreme that firefighters said their feet were scalded by water that reached its boiling point shortly after being sprayed on the flames.
At a press conference at the port on Friday, Mr Lorenson said the intense heat continued to pose a serious risk.
“It’s a steel box,” he said. “So it’s a very complex situation.”
“It’s burning very hot,” he added, “so right now a lot of the decks that are burning and the cars that are burning are inaccessible to our fire crews.”