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Dangerous powder from lost cargo on Germany-bound boat found on Dutch island

A bag containing dangerous powder washed up on a small Dutch North Sea island on Thursday, after some 270 containers tumbled from one of the world's biggest cargo ships that was headed for Germany in rough weather, as authorities scramble to clean debris-strewn beaches.

Dangerous powder from lost cargo on Germany-bound boat found on Dutch island
The cargo ship in Bremerhaven, northern Germany. Photo: DPA

Frisian Island authorities, which said the bag was found closed, identified the powder as “organic peroxide”, a highly flammable substance used in making plastics.

“A bag containing 25 kilogrammes of powder was found on the beach of Schiermonnikoog,” Jan-Willem Zwart, spokesman for the security  services in the region, told AFP.

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

The Panama-registered MSC Zoe, which was mostly carrying toys, furniture and auto parts, lost the containers late on Tuesday while battling a storm off the Frisian Islands, an archipelago off the northwestern Dutch coast also
known as the Wadden Islands.

The MSC Zoe, which berthed at the northern German port of Bremerhaven late Wednesday, is one of the world's largest container vessels at 396 metres long and 59 metres wide. It was built in 2015.

Coastguards said three containers that had been transporting organic peroxide on the MSC Zoe have not been located and are thought to have sunk.

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

Following appeals from officials in the affected islands, the Dutch ministry of defence announced soldiers would arrive Friday to help the clean-up operation on coastlines strewn with rubbish, notably polystyrene.   

Volunteers have been helping collect items washed up on the beaches, which “look like a mess”, Zwart said.

Authorities have warned volunteers and locals not to touch any bags but to call police or the fire brigade.

“We strongly advise residents and people who have come to clean the beaches to… immediately seek medical attention if they come into contact with the bags (containing organic peroxide),” Zwart said, warning that the chemical substance “can cause burns”.

On the tiny island of Ameland “130,000 kg of debris has already been collected from eight km of beach”, the authorities said in a tweet. 

On Ameland, the clean up is underway. Photo: DPA

In a statement shipping firm MSC Mediterranean Shipping said it took the incident “very seriously, both in terms of the impact of such accidents on the natural environment and in terms of any damage to customers' cargo”.

The firm said it had appointed a salvage company to help retrieve cargo and the clean-up and had deployed ships equipped with sonar after what it described as a “substantial spill of containers”.

Dutch broadcaster NOS on Wednesday broadcast footage of locals gathered around one of the containers, with toys and other materials strewn across the beach and one man carrying off a flat screen television.

It came after the first storm of the year, dubbed Zeetje, which caused severe weather along the North Sea coast, as well as further along at the Baltic Sea coast.

The storm caused flooding in some cities and towns in Germany, including Wismar, Lübeck and Flensburg.

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WEATHER

Will Germany see more snow this winter?

Over the weekend, large parts of Germany saw early snowfall, but will it continue throughout the winter?

Will Germany see more snow this winter?

Many parts of Germany experienced an early white Christmas over the weekend, as snow fell from Berlin to the Baltic Sea. Hesse also saw at least the first swirl of snowflakes and there was light snow in the Siegerland and the Hochsauerland districts of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Some areas of the country were hit particularly hard by the snow – a few centimetres of snow fell in Kassel, while large parts of Bavaria experienced heavy snowfall on Saturday.

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

There were also numerous accidents on icy roads in North Rhine-Westphalia, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Schleswig-Holstein and Bavaria. 

Will there be more snowfall this week?

Snowfall is expected at the beginning of the week in some areas in Thuringia and Saxony, while further south, there is likely to be snowfall only at high altitudes – such as in the Bavarian Alps.

Snow lies on the beach in Zingst, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Georg Moritz

In the coming days, temperatures will rise again and the weather will become milder. According to the German Weather Service (DWD) temperatures will hover between 5C and 12C for most of the country, while only the northeast and east see maximum temperatures of 0C to 4C.

Will there be more snow this winter?

2022 has already broken weather records in Germany – the period from January to the end of October was the warmest since weather records began almost 140 years ago.

READ ALSO: ‘A glimpse into our climate future’: Germany logs warmest October on record

Various weather models have already simulated the coming winter in Europe and Germany and provide estimations on how much warmer the coming winter is likely to be than from the years 1961 to 1990.

The models created by NASA, DWD, and the Climate Forecast System all agree that trend of rising temperatures will probably continue over the winter. Between December and February, it’s expected that the mercury will be between 1C and 3C higher than it was between 1961 and 1990. 

Meteorologist Corinna Borau from wetter.com told the Frankfurter Rundschau that she thinks that it’s extremely unlikely that there will be further snowfall in December in Germany.

“If the month looks rather dry and too mild overall, then we can’t expect large amounts of snow” Borau said. 

According to Borau, January is unlikely to be a “snow bomb” either, though it will still “feel like winter” and snow is only expected to fall sporadically. In February, however, the chances of snowfall are higher than in previous months.

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