Dutch islanders take to the beach as container cargo washes ashore

Nederland the Netherlands Coastguard shows the container vessel MSC ZOE after the storm

Nederland the Netherlands Coastguard shows the container vessel MSC ZOE after the storm

Dozens of containers with items including flat-screen televisions have washed up on Dutch islands in the North Sea after a ship lost part of its cargo in heavy seas, bringing a windfall for local treasure hunters.

The loss of the containers from the freighter MSC Zoe, some of them thought to contain toxic chemicals, is one of the biggest incidents of its kind, the Dutch Defence Ministry said.

"A bag containing 25 kilograms of powder was found on the beach of Schiermonnikoog", said Jan-Willem Zwart, spokesman for the security services of the Frisian Islands, identifying it as "organic peroxide", a highly flammable substance used in making plastics. Some of the containers are thought to have been carrying risky chemicals after a 55-pound (25-kilo) bag of organic peroxide washed up ashore. Some 21 have so far washed up on the Dutch Wadden Sea islands, covering the beaches with debris.

It said it is collaborating with local authorities "in all aspects of the cleanup". Three containers holding hazardous materials have not yet been located, the Coast Guard said.

The German authorities are investigating what caused the the containers to fall off as it occurred in German waters near the island of Borkum.

Shipping company MSC issued a statement on Wednesday saying it had appointed a salvage company to coordinate the retrieval of cargo and beach clean-up operations and is also deploying specialised ships equipped with sonar to search for missing cargo at sea.

The MSC Zoe, one of the world's largest container vessels, is owned by Geneva-based Mediterranean Shipping Company.

MSC Zoe is now at port in Bremerhaven, Germany.

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