Ship loses cargo in storm, as clean up begins after flooding in northern Germany

A cargo ship caught in rough North Sea weather lost at least 270 containers, including four holding potentially dangerous substances, the Dutch and German coastguards said Wednesday.

Ship loses cargo in storm, as clean up begins after flooding in northern Germany
The container ship MSC ZOE, which lost up to 270 containers in rough North Sea weather. Photo: Havariekommando/DPA.

A cargo ship headed for Germany's Bremerhaven which was caught in rough North Sea weather lost at least 270 containers, including four holding potentially dangerous substances, the Dutch and German coastguards said Wednesday.

The Panama-registered MSC Zoe shed the containers containing mostly toys, furniture and auto spare parts while battling a storm, that was dubbed 'Zeetje' off the Frisian Islands, an archipelago off the northwestern Dutch coast also known as the Wadden Islands.

So far, around 20 containers have been located near the shores of these islands while another six were found in German waters.

Later on Thursday it emerged that a bag containing dangerous powder washed up on a small Dutch island.

“A bag containing 25 kilogrammes (55 pounds) 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.

He told AFP the bag had come from one of three containers transporting organic peroxide that had been on board the MSC Zoe.

The storm also caused flooding and other damage in northern Germany.

The Dutch coastguard had earlier tweeted that three of the containers contained, in powder form,  highly flammable, potentially dangerous organic peroxides used in making plastics which can cause irritation if breathed in.

On Wednesday the Dutch coastguard tweeted the location of where the containers went overboard. They provided updates all day.

German coastguard sources said they had located one container holding organic peroxide among six containers that reached the country's coastline.

They also warned the public not to touch the containers if found, but to call police or the fire brigade.

The Dutch coastguard said the containers went overboard not far from the German island of Borkum. The cargo ship was mostly carrying toys, furniture and auto parts.

Dutch broadcaster NOS showed local people around one of the containers and pictured toys and other materials strewn across beaches as well as one man carrying off a flat screen television.

A Dutch coastguard spokesman told NOS it was likely the containers holding the peroxides had sunk.

A Dutch coastguard plane was due to undertake a new search on Thursday morning while strong winds were hampering the MSC Zoe's own attempts to carry out an inventory.

The mayor of Terschelling island, where some of the cargo washed ashore, told NOS he expected it would take several days to clear the beach of stray items from the containers.

The 2015-built MSC Zoe, which was headed to the northern German port of Bremerhaven, is one of the world's largest container vessels at 396 metres long and 59 metres wide.

Storm 'Zeetje'

It came as German cities reported flooding after the storm hit the mainland. Zeetje kept emergency forces in northern Germany on their toes on New Year's Eve as it triggered the first storm surge of the new year on the Baltic Sea coast.

In Wismar, Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, streets were flooded on Wednesday after the water level rose.

Ferry connections around the seaside resort of Warnemünde, including the connection between Rügen and Hiddensee, were temporarily suspended.

The first storm of the year also caused some delays and train cancellations in the area.

High water levels in Wismar on Wednesday. Photo: DPA

Also on the Baltic Sea coast in Schleswig-Holstein, water levels rose above normal. In Lübeck and Flensburg, cars were under water. The police reported that in both cities, as well as in Kiel, waterlogged riverside roads had to be temporarily closed. No major damage had been reported in the afternoon on Wednesday.

In Hamburg, emergency services had to lift two large fallen trees from the street with a crane, a fire brigade spokesman said on Wednesday. Among other things, the trees had damaged several cars.

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Snowfall due at the weekend as winter arrives in Germany

After a cold blast at the end of November, winter in Germany is set to begin with yet more snow, making it the perfect time to dig out a puffer coat and get out to Christmas market.

Snowfall due at the weekend as winter arrives in Germany

German punctuality has struck once again as winter looks set to arrive right on cue this year, with a flurry of snowfall, ice and frosty conditions in several regions of the country.

According to the German Weather Service (DWD), Saxony-Anhalt could see the mercury drop as low as -6C on Friday as snow continues to fall until the afternoon. The Harz mountains will also get a festive dusting of snow, with temperatures ranging from -1 to -3C in the coming days.   

Saturday is set to be overcast in the region with up to 5cm of snowfall, but things could dry up on Sunday as temperatures rise to a nippy 1-3C. The eastern states of Saxony and Thuringia can also expect icy conditions and snow over the weekend.

In North Rhine-Westphalia, snow is also expected at higher altitudes. In eastern Westphalia and in the Sauerland region, there could be light snowfall or sleet, DWD reported on Friday. Drivers and cyclists should exercise caution as roads are likely to become slippery due to fresh snow or freezing rain.

DWD explains that two high-pressure areas are currently causing colder winds to sweep across Germany. The first, which caused snow to fall overnight across central Germany, is gradually heading south towards France – though the second is set to bring another icy spell to the country on Friday evening and into Saturday.

Bavaria will be the first to experience the chill as the high-pressure zone travels across the Alps overnight. 

The southern state is likely to have a soggy start to the weekend, with rain falling at lower altitudes – though more hilly and mountainous areas will see some snow. But as temperatures drop during the night, residents of Bavaria could see as much as 5cm as snow on Saturday morning.

READ ALSO: Surviving winter: 8 tips for enjoying the cold like a true German

The rest of the weekend will likely be marked by uniform grey skies, frost and drizzle, though those lucky enough to live in an Alpine region could see a few precious rays of sunshine too.

The weather will also take a distinctly wintry turn in Berlin and Brandenburg over the weekend, as the cold front sweeps across northeastern Germany on Saturday and towards the Baltic Sea. 

Friday is likely to be mostly chilly and overcast, with occasional rain or sleet and maximum temperatures of 2C. 

In the night, however, southern Brandenburg will start to see some fresh snowfall, which will move up across Berlin and to the north of Brandenburg over the course of Saturday.

Snow falls outside the Reichstag in Berlin

Snow falls outside the Reichstag in Berlin on Wednesday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christoph Soeder

Berliners should be sure to wrap up if they’re heading out to enjoy the festive scenes, since the mercury is likely to hover between zero and -2C. 

Will the snow settle? 

Unfortunately the dusting of white is unlikely to stick around long in most places – so make your snow angels while you can. 

Misty or overcast skies will return on Advent Sunday, while occasional drizzle could well turn Saturday’s snow into slush. Hilly and mountainous regions will be the only ones treated to an extra helping of snow.

Meanwhile, Monday is set to get off to a soggy and wet start, with rainfall in most regions and temperatures between 1C and 5C. 

READ ALSO: Will Germany see more snow this winter?