WOOD ISLANDS, P.E.I. — An engine room fire that broke out aboard a ferry crossing the Northumberland Strait between Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island on Friday morning continues to burn more than 24 hours later, and the company is warning the 83 vehicles aboard the ship may not be recovered.
Northumberland Ferries Ltd. said Saturday afternoon smoke could still be seen billowing out of the vessel's funnels, a stack aboard the ship used to emit engine exhaust.
Efforts to extinguish the blaze were abandoned Friday night and the ship's crew and firefighters were evacuated due to safety concerns, the company said.
About 230 passengers were evacuated from the MV Holiday Island as it neared Wood Islands Friday morning. There were no injuries reported.
The Canadian Coast Guard is standing by and monitoring the situation while the tug Svitzer Bedford, which has firefighting capabilities, has been able to apply some "boundary cooling" to the sides of the ship and car decks, Northumberland Ferries said.
An environmental response organization has also set up a boom around the ship as a precautionary measure, the company said.
“The company is still assessing the feasibility of a ship recovery plan in conjunction with Coast Guard and local fire authorities," Northumberland Ferries vice-president Don Cormier said in a statement.
"The current plan under consideration would be to tow the ship into Wood Islands harbour during high tide with two tugs and to secure the ship in berth. Once secured in berth, firefighting crews would attempt to finally extinguish the fire.”
It remains unclear whether the company will be able to recover the 83 vehicles on board when the fire broke out.
"There is still a chance that, despite everyone’s best efforts, we may not be able to recover the vehicles," Cormier said.
"We understand the impact this is having on our customers. We are doing everything possible to try to recover those vehicles and personal belongings as soon as possible."
While Northumberland Ferries has made efforts to arrange transportation and accommodation to those who needed it, peak tourism season on the island is complicating those efforts.
"There are virtually no available accommodations to be found in P.E.I. and no rental vehicles," Cormier said. "If vehicle recovery efforts are successful, we will assist in organizing the return of vehicles to their owners.”
Northumberland Ferries has cancelled all service between Caribou, N.S., and Wood Islands, P.E.I., this weekend.
Passengers aboard the ferry describe loud, ringing alarms that went off as the ship approached Wood Islands.
A massive inflatable slide also sprang from the ship's side to offer an evacuation route.
People were picked up and taken to shore by fishing vessels, rescue crafts and even a yacht.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2022.
The Canadian Press