Flames engulf cargo ship’s remains off US coast; no injuries

Fire burned Friday inside the remains of an overturned cargo ship being dismantled along the Georgia coast.

Susan Inman of the Altamaha Riverkeeper conservation group told The Associated Press she could see flames shooting from the open ends and the top of the Golden Ray on Friday afternoon as she watched from a boat about 300 yards (275 meters) away near St. Simons Island. Thick black smoke was filling the sky, she said, and loud several loud popping sounds could be heard from the shipwreck.

"It is ablaze," Inman said. "You can actually hear explosions."

She said a the fire was being sprayed with hoses from the towering crane being used to dismantle the ship. Video of the scene showed a boat equipped with a water cannon dousing the fire as well.

No injuries had been reported and all demolition crew members near the shipwreck were safely evacuated, said Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Himes, a spokesman for the multiagency command in charge of the demolition.

Himes said flames flared up inside the wreck Friday afternoon as workers used cutting torches along the hull to create a path for the 400 feet (122 meters) of anchor chain being used to tear the ship apart with brute force.

"It is considerable at this time. It picked up very quickly," Himes said of the blaze. "The good news is, because we planned for fires and we planned for the need to evacuate in the case of those fires, all of our crews are accounted for."

Himes said the fire was likely sparked by one of the cutting torches, even though crews were pumping sea water onto the ship as a fire suppression measure. He didn’t know what was fueling the blaze, but said it’s possibly residual fuel still aboard the ship as well as cars that remain inside its cargo decks.

The Golden Ray had roughly 4,200 vehicles in its cargo decks when it capsized off St. Simons Island, about 70 miles (112 kilometers) south of Savannah, on Sept. 8, 2019. Crews have worked since November to carve the ship into eight giant chunks, then carry each section away by barge.

In April they reached the halfway mark after separating the ship’s engine section. The vessel measured 656 feet (199 meters) long when it overturned.

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