The Hague (AFP) - A cargo ship caught in rough North Sea weather lost at least 270 containers, including four holding potentially dangerous substances, the Dutch and German coastguards said Wednesday.
The Panama-registered MSC Zoe shed the containers containing mostly toys, furniture and auto spare parts while battling a storm off the Frisian Islands, an archipelago off the northwestern Dutch coast also known as the Wadden Islands.
The Dutch coastguard tweeted that three of the containers contained, in powder form, highly flammable, potentially dangerous organic peroxides used in making plastics which can cause irritation if breathed in.
German coastguard sources said they had located one container holding organic peroxide among six containers that reached the country's coastline.
They also warned the public not to touch the containers if found, but to call police or the fire brigade.
The Dutch coastguard, which said the containers went overboard not far from the German island of Borkum, added they did not have information about the content of cargo beyond that of the 20 or so containers which washed up on the islands.
Dutch broadcaster NOS showed local people around one of the containers and pictured toys and other materials strewn across beaches as well as one man carrying off a flat screen television.
A Dutch coastguard spokesman told NOS it was likely the containers holding the peroxides had sunk.
A Dutch coastguard plane was due to undertake a new search on Thursday morning while strong winds were hampering the MSC Zoe's own attempts to carry out an inventory.
The mayor of Terschelling island, where some of the cargo washed ashore, told NOS he expected it would take several days to clear the beach of stray items from the containers.
The 2015-built MSC Zoe, which was headed to the northern German port of Bremerhaven, is one of the world's largest container vessels at 396 metres (1300 feet) long and 59 metres wide.