Welland Canal: Bridge Hits Boat

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A fire aboard a ship in the Welland Canal forced the closure of the St. Lawrence Seaway between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. The fire happened last night near Thorold, Ontario when a lift bridge was lowered onto the ship. The bridge sheared off the smokestack and wheelhouse, igniting the fire. Nobody was seriously injured in the accident.

-- Rachel Gibson (rgibson@hotmail.com), August 12, 2001



Backlog at Welland Canal

ALLANBURG, Ont. (CP) -- A backlog of at least two dozen vessels was waiting to cross the Welland Canal on Monday, two days after a freighter crashed into a lift bridge.

"Twenty-five (vessels) are currently in the water," Sylvie Moncion of the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation said from Cornwall, Ont.

"The bridge is in a low position. They're trying to raise it as high as possible so the ships can travel under it safely."

Moncion said the canal was expected to reopen Monday evening.

The crash occurred Saturday night near Thorold, Ont., when a freighter hauling 26,000 tonnes of wheat from Thunder Bay, Ont. caught fire after colliding with the bridge.

It was headed to lower ports on the St. Lawrence River.

Fire crews used aerial ladder trucks from both sides of the canal to put out the blaze.

Seaway officials said 22 crew members were on board the ship, which is owned by N.M. Paterson and Sons Ltd., a Canadian grain and shipping company.

Two were treated for minor injuries.

A second fire broke out Monday morning, but was quickly extinguished before tugboats began towing the vessel to a nearby port.

The Welland Canal ties together the St. Lawrence Seaway, a 3,700-kilometre transportation waterway that links central Canada with the Atlantic Ocean.

The waterway system ties western grain farmers to markets in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Officials have tried to alert shipowners of possible delays, said Moncion.

It's not the first time vessels have been stuck due to complications on the canal.

One of the most serious delays occurred Thanksgiving Day in 1984, when a portion of a canal lock caved in, closing the waterway for 23 days and stranding at least 130 ships.

-- Rachel Gibson (rgibson@hotmail.com), August 13, 2001.



for a fascinating and ongoing account of the accident and the investigation.

-- Andre Weltman (aweltman@state.pa.us), August 20, 2001.

Thanks for the li nk, Andre. Don't you just love it when someone goes to the trouble to put detailed info like this online when such an event occurs?

Of course, Cdn media was busily showing the burning ship to viewers here. Obviously this was no small incident.

-- Rachel Gibson (rgibson@hotmail.com), August 20, 2001.

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