Vanuatu cargo ship fire: safety authority investigating

The Vanuatu Maritime Safety Authority team has arrived at the site of a ship fire to investigate the cause of the blaze onboard the LC Western Star.

The authority's commissioner, Less Napuati, said other relevant government institutions such as the environment department were due to fly to Malekula to assess the ship, and how it would affect the people and marine resources of the area.

Eight crew members fled the vessel on Wednesday and by early Thursday local time fire-fighters had extinguished the blaze.

One crew member was injured and flown to Luganville hospital.

The vessel's trip was to offload fuel at the fuel depot stationed at Wintua. Benzine had been offloaded and the crew were in the process of offloading mazut when the unfortunate incident occurred.

Villagers near the scene are threatening to sue the fuel company and the ship owner if there is a fuel leak into the surrounding reefs.

Chief Alben Reuben, a former field worker from the Vanuatu Cultural Center, said there were taboo reefs in the area of Wintua and Lawa, where it was prohibited to fish and swim.

Reuben is from Lawa village, which is near Wintua in the west of Malekula Island.

He said only chiefs could swim in those areas after pig killing ceremonies to appoint a new chief or promote an existing one.

Reuben said if there was fuel leakage it would be catastrophic for the area's marine resources and local traditions.


Photo credit Brada Bai Ret   Caption:  Fire onboard the LC Western Star