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Blazing Container Ship Breaks Up During Indian Ocean Storm

A container ship broke into two parts in the Indian Ocean and was sinking after a storm caused it hull to crack and set one of the sections ablaze.

The MOL Comfort was sailing to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, from Singapore when it cracked during “inclement weather” at about 7 a.m. local time yesterday, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd., the Tokyo-based operator of the carrier, said on its website. The front and back sections of the vessel have drifted about 19 miles apart and the shipper is sending tugboats to both.

The carrier is sinking and the back is ablaze, the U.S. Navy in Bahrain said in an advisory sent by e-mail today. There are “considerable amounts of oil on the water with containers scattered in the area,” it said. Mitsui O.S.K. spokeswoman Akika Hamakawa said there wasn’t a significant leak.

The shipowner is investigating the incident and doesn’t have details on the cargo yet, she said. The carrier was built five years ago and can carry about 7,000 standard 20-foot containers. It was carrying a crew of 26, comprising one Ukrainian, 11 Russians and 14 Filipinos, the company said. All were rescued.

Nippon Kaiji Kyokai conducted a special survey on the ship last month, according to its website. The vessel is insured by Japan Ship Owners’ Mutual Protection and Indemnity Association, according to its website.

Prior to Singapore, the ship went to Vietnam, according to ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg. Before that it sailed to China and Japan.

In 2006, a Mitsui O.S.K. vessel carrying 4,700 Mazda Motor Corp. cars was damaged in rough seas and took on water. Mazda decided to junk the vehicles after a two-month assessment to determine whether any could be salvaged, the Hiroshima, Japan-based company said at the time.

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