Cape Town. 130229. The Hwan Tsan burnt out at Cape Town harbour just at the entrance of the Clock Tower entrance. Picture COURTNEY AFRICA

Barbara Maregele

A VIETNAMESE man died and 25 other crew were rescued as a fire raged for more than four hours aboard a South Korean long-liner fishing vessel in Cape Town harbour on Saturday evening.

The South African Maritime Authority (Samsa) is investigating and police have opened a case of arson.

Crew member, Ho Xuan Tung, 29 who was reported missing during the fire was found fatally burnt on board the Hwa–Tsan, said the Disaster Risk Management Centre’s Wilfred Solomons-Johannes.

The vessel was berthed at the Landing Wharf in the port off Duncan Road.

Tung’s remains were taken to the Forensic Pathology Services in Salt River.

“A team of firefighters from 12 stations assisted in extinguishing the fire… When Fire and Rescue personnel arrived, smoke was billowing from the vessel. They were forced to withdraw at 9.23pm when strong winds intensified the blaze. A tug boat was on standby close to the vessel dowsing the blaze,” he said.

When the rescue team gained access to the vessel through the hull, they extinguished the fire after 1am yesterday, said Solomons-Johannes.

“The emergency services personnel averted any significant pollution,” he said.

Solomons-Johannes said the crew of Taiwanese, Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean nationals were given emergency shelter at the Seaman’s Club, but the Regal Cape Marine shipping agency would be taking care of accommodation arrangements for the crew members.

“The centre informed the embassies of Taiwan (Cape Town Tapei Liaison Office), People’s Republic of China, Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the Republic of Korea regarding the tragic incident. Immigration control officers were sent to assist with the admission of the foreigners into the territorial borders of South Africa and assisted with issuing permits,” he said.

The fire scene has been put in the hands of the National Ports Authority of South Africa.

Meanwhile, Solomons-Johannes said when authorities interviewed the crew it appeared that “in the course of conflict the vessel was torched purposefully”.

Samsa spokesman Tebogo Ramatjie said a formal statement on the blaze would be released today and it would investigate the incident in terms of international maritime conventions.

Police spokesman Tembinkosi Kinana said a docket of suspected arson had been opened.

In a separate incident, 100 people from the Dakela Informal Settlement near Milnerton were left homeless when their shacks burnt down early on Saturday.

The centre has assisted the families with building materials along with food parcels, blankets and clothes.

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