Freezer fault thought to have started ship's fire

Sixty firefighters were called to put out a fierce blaze in cramped conditions aboard a ship moored in Yarmouth yesterday.

Sixty firefighters were called to put out a fierce blaze in cramped conditions aboard a ship moored in Yarmouth yesterday.

The town was brought to a standstill as a separate crash on the nearby Gapton Hall roundabout at the same time closed down access from Gorleston and Lowestoft in the morning rush hour.

The Southtown area of Yarmouth was gridlocked from 8.20am to 10am as firecrews from Yarmouth, Gorleston, Lowestoft, Acle, Loddon, Stalham and Wymondham weaved their way through the traffic to get to the ship.

Crew on board the salvage vessel Union Beaver reported a fire in a freezer in the main hold at 8.38am while it was moored at Gas House Quay on Southtown Road.

The firefighters worked in teams of eight on 10-minute shifts to tackle the blaze in fiercely hot conditions.

Area manager Terry Lark-owsky said: "The first crews got to the ship soon after receiving the call and requested additional appliances because the fire, while it was contained, was so severe.

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"Access was extremely difficult and fire crews had to contend with really hot and smoky conditions.

"A fire like that would be bad enough if it was out in the open, but in the bowels of a steel vessel the heat builds up quickly and stays there.

"It's a very, very physical environment so we changed the crews around quickly, making sure there were teams lined up to take over."

Despite the ship being moored close to large gas containers, there was no chance of the fire spreading to other parts of the ship or the shore, said Mr Larkowsky.

He added that firefighters believed the blaze had broken out because of faulty electronics in the freezer, though could not say for certain at this stage.

Operators who had chartered the Antwerp-based vessel, which holds a crew of up to 28 and weighs 250 tonnes, refused to comment.

Meanwhile, other emergency services were dealing with a crash on the notorious Gapton Hall roundabout into town.

Traffic was brought to a standstill in all directions at 8.23am when a Renault Clio was in collision with a Suzuki motorcycle.

The roundabout was closed with fuel leaking from the bike. The motorcyclist was taken to the James Paget Hospital, Gorleston, with back and ankle injuries that were not being described as serious.

Queues stretched back miles towards Gorleston in one direction and the Acle Straight in the other, but by 9.30am the roundabout had been reopened with the traffic moving freely by 10am.