Feb 20, 2022 - World

Firefighters struggling to extinguish burning cargo ship carrying luxury cars

The Felicity Ace ship carrying luxury cars, is seen as it is adrift in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean

The Felicity Ace ship carrying luxury cars is seen on Feb. 18 adrift in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean after it caught fire near Portugal. Photo: Portuguese Naval Forces / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Firefighters are fighting a difficult battle to extinguish a large burning cargo ship off the coast of Portugal's Azores Islands, a local port official told Reuters late Saturday.

Driving the news: The giant Felicity Ace cargo ship caught fire Wednesday in the middle of the Atlantic while transporting thousands of luxury cars, including Audis, Porches, and Bentleys, across the ocean.

  • The 656-foot vessel was bound for Rhode Island when it caught fire, but is expected to be towed back to Europe if it's in good condition once the fire is put out, the Providence Journal reports.

What they're saying: "It will take a while," João Mendes Cabeças, captain of the nearest port in the Azorean island of Faial told Reuters of the effort to extinguish the fire.

  • While it's not yet clear what sparked the fire, the lithium-ion batteries in some of the cars are "keeping the fire alive," according to Cabeças.
  • While the fire hasn't reached the ship's fuel tanks yet, it's getting closer as it has "spread further down," he added.

The big picture: Part of the difficulty with extinguishing the fire is that firefighters can only tackle it from outside, due to the danger of boarding the burning vessel.

  • The situation is further complicated by the fact that using water cannons could make the ship more unstable, and traditional water extinguishers don't work on lithium-ion batteries, according to Cabeças.
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