Ferry service between PEI and Nova Scotia was suspended for the weekend due to a fire that forced more than 200 passengers and staff to evacuate the MV Holiday Island on Friday.
Northumberland Ferries announced Friday evening that the ferry service between Caribou, NS, and Wood Islands, PEI, will be canceled for a second day due to an emergency on the MV Holiday Island. On Saturday morning, it was said that all transfers would also be canceled until Sunday.
Northumberland Ferries passengers were told via text message on Saturday that the company was unsure if the vehicles could be put back on board and that the fire was still burning.
Update: Please note that Northumberland Ferries have canceled all sailings for Sunday 24th July 2022. We apologize for any inconvenience.
Please follow https://t.co/NHUQ0N7k4P or call our toll-free number at 1-800-565 -0201 for the most up-to-date schedule information.
“[We] cannot determine with certainty whether any damage to vehicles will ultimately result. At this point, we don’t think the damage is extensive,” said Don Cormier, vice president of the company.
“Our intention is to tow the vessel back to port and, yes, unload the vehicles. But we think it will take time.”
Smoke was still rising Saturday afternoon
As of Saturday afternoon, smoke was still visible from the PEI-bound ferry, nearly a full day after a fire broke out in the vessel’s engine room.
Cormier said the crew and firefighters stopped efforts to extinguish the fire on board and evacuated the ferry as a precaution at about 9:30 p.m. Friday.
He said some of the water used for supercooling entered the holds, causing the ship to tilt and threaten its stability.
“The decision was made that the current firefighting efforts were really not productive in terms of cooling the boundaries,” Cormier said.
“The captain, the authorities and the agencies agreed that we should evacuate the ship. So there is no one on board at this time.’
In the afternoon, Cormier said the fire was believed to still be contained in the ship’s engine room and funnels. He said water may have to be pumped out of the holds, which could lead to spillage of residual oil.
Northumberland Ferries has called in an environmental response team “as a precaution”, which is now on site.
In the port, fire extinguishing works are ongoing
It said the Canadian Coast Guard had been monitoring the situation throughout the night and was still there. A tug with firefighting capabilities used boundary cooling of the ship’s sides and car decks.
On Friday, the ship was moved slightly to deeper water so that the tug could work properly. It also cleared the way for MV Confederation, the company’s other vessel.
Cormier said there are plans to move the MV Holiday Island into Wood Islands Harbor at high tide and fight the remaining fire there. He said it could happen on Sunday.
Four officers from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada were deployed to investigate the fire.
The TSB said investigators will be interviewing witnesses and gathering evidence. They said they would only take the ferry if it was deemed safe.
The company is engaged in placement
Meanwhile, Northumberland Ferries said the company would work with customers to get them home “as soon as possible” or extend their temporary accommodation.
Cormier said workers who had been on leave and even some who had retired or moved from the company came back to help.
Buses have been arranged for passengers living in Atlantic Canada. Some have already been selected. Cormier said they are also working with those living outside the region to work out the logistics of their return.
He said it is difficult to find accommodation because of the season. But those paying out of pocket will be reimbursed. There is also assistance with food and incidental expenses.
#CCGLive UPDATE: #SearchAndRescue the case is now closed, but ours #EnvironmentalResponse continues. Last night we evacuated all the personnel that remained on board. Safety remains our priority. pic.twitter.com/hA7ZGCqwgM
The company is also working to transfer prescriptions and deliver medications to five passengers who left them in their cars.
“It wasn’t the day we planned”
Passenger Mary Clark-Tuesnar said her sister left her prescription and she had to work out with the pharmacy how to get a refill in PEI
“[We’ve been] to buy clothes because … all our luggage, all our belongings were in the car, she said. – It was not the day we planned.
Although all passengers were safely evacuated and there were no serious injuries, both Clark-Tuesnard and her sister suffered bruises and cuts from the chute descent.
“I’m thankful it didn’t turn out worse than it was,” she said. “So, a little tired, a little disappointed, worried about the vehicle and all of our stuff, but overall happy that no one was seriously hurt.”
The sisters decided to stay with family while waiting to see if their car could be returned. They planned to leave on Sunday, but now they are not sure.
“Of course, we are worried [about] insurance claims,” Clark-Tusnar said. “Nothing like this is resolved quickly.”
There are 83 vehicles on board. Cormier said that if the vehicles are beyond repair, the company will “certainly” have to consider claims for compensation.
“Our insurance company and our company will respond to all these demands and needs of the customers,” he said. “Certainly we care about the customers and want to … make the best out of this obviously terrible situation, given the circumstances.”
No more smoke from the vessel
Cormier said an update on the restoration of service would be provided Sunday afternoon.
He said it was too early to talk about the cause of the fire.
“All I can say is that the ship is in very good condition and it is too early to speculate on the root cause,” he said.
Late Saturday, Cormier said smoke was no longer coming from the ferry, but that did not mean the fire was out.
“It’s dangerous to have anyone on board or in the open engine room,” he said. “For security purposes, we will be watching.”