4 dead, 7 missing after container ship collides with car carrier in North Sea off Belgium and Netherlands


Ships in the North Sea, off the Belgian coast, near Zeebrugge.



Two ships collided in the North Sea, killing four sailors and sparking an operation to rescue others from freezing waters off the coast of Belgium and the Netherlands.

Seven people were still missing late Wednesday after a 440-foot container vessel, the Corvus J, collided with the 485-foot car carrier Baltic Ace, carrying 24 people, at 7:15 p.m., according to CNN, citing the Coast Guard.

The Associated Press cited a Coast Guard spokesman as saying that while the rescue operation was continuing through the night, "the chance of finding anyone alive now is virtually zero."

"We are doing all we can, but time is overtaking us," Peter Verberg told the Associated Press news agency.

Strong winds and high seas are making conditions difficult for helicopters and navy patrol ships involved in the rescue.

Earlier, the Dutch coastguard and navy pulled at least four bodies from the icy waters, as well as 13 survivors.

Four survivors were flown to a hospital in Rotterdam, seven taken by rescue helicopter to a hospital in Belgium and two were being treated on board a ship that found them, Marcel Oldenburger told Agence France-Presse.

"They are all in shock" and are believed to suffer from hypothermia, he said.

The Baltic Ace sank shortly after the rescues, according to Dutch media reports, while the Corvus J was only slightly damaged.

The Bahamas-registered Baltic Ace had been en route from Zeebrugge, Belgium, to Kotka, Finland, while the container vessel was en route from Grangemouth, Britain, to Antwerp, Belgium, it added.