Soldiers deployed to clean up sea containers washed ashore on Wadden Islands

The Ministry of Defense deployed 100 soldiers to assist in cleaning up sea containers and their content that washed ashore on the Wadden Islands. Some 270 containers fell from cargo ship MSC Zoe near Germany during the early hours of Wednesday morning. Around 35 containers washed ashore on the Wadden Islands. Friesland and Groningen on the mainland also found containers and their content, reports.

The soldiers will start cleaning up the beaches on the Wadden Islands on Friday. Some soldiers had to come back from their Christmas holidays to help, according to the newspaper.

"It's really disastrous what's on the beach here, a huge amount of junk. There are already professionals and volunteers cleaning up. But we really need help, we're not going to save this ourselves", said Ineke van Gent, mayor of Schiermonnikoog. She called the pollution a "disaster for nature", according to "We are a notional park, it is a beautiful area. And now everything is littered with soap pumps, wipes, mattresses, operating clothes, you name it."

Both Schiermonnikoog and Terschelling requested military help in cleaning up their beaches. 

A bag of 25 kilograms of powder washed ashore on Schiermonnikoog on Thursday. The substance is believed to be peroxide. A number of the MSC Zoe containers contained the toxic substance. The fire brigade took samples and is currently investigating how to best deal with the washed up cargo. 

Three of the lost containers held organic peroxide in powder form. According to the Coast Guard, it is not yet clear what type of peroxide is involved. One type could ignite at temperatures above 50 degrees Celsius, the other is only polluting. Safety office Veiligheidsregio Friesland advises people to stay away from the containers with peroxide and to not breathe the substance. Call emergency number 112 if you spot a container with one of the following numbers: MSCU3713629, CXDU2077321 and TCLU41747408.

The shipping company, Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), launched a salvage operation for the 270 lost containers. Sonar equipment is being used to search for containers that sank. The Coast Guard also deployed aircraft in the Wadden Sea Region to look for containers and contents that washed ashore. 

The MSC Zoe is now moored in the port of Bremen in Germany. The vessel will be unloaded and inspected, according to the Coast Guard. Why the containers fell off the ship is not yet clear. MSC believes the accident was caused by strong wind. Rijkswaterstaat and Delta are currently investigating.

A number of cleanup actions are already ongoing on the Wadden Islands and mainland Netherlands. Lutz Jacobi, director of the Wadden Association, advises people who want to help to join one of the active cleaning parties. "It does not help if everyone goes their own way", she said to

On Thursday a few hundred people, including tourists, were cleaning the beach on Terschelling. A stretch of 10 kilometers was polluted by the containers, according to a spokesperson for the municipality. Some 20 percent was cleaned up on Thursday. The beach is now mainly polluted by Styrofoam and other waste. The cleanup is complicated by the strong wind and the state of the water, the spokesperson said to Plastic pieces are being blown into the dunes and forest. As a result, the municipality expects the cleanup will take multiple days. 

On Ameland a total of 200 thousand kilograms of waste was cleaned up on Wednesday and Thursday, the municipality said on Thursday. Mayor Gerard van Klaveren fears that the beach will be polluted again after high water, as many containers are still at sea. 

The municipality of Vlieland said on Twitter that most of the waste on the island has been cleared away and that the cleanup action has been halted for the time being.