Fire destroys replica merchant ship in Den Helder

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A local woman who was recently on the ship for a party described the situation as “unreal” and “shocking.”

Den Helder – A replica of 17th century Dutch East India Company merchant ship Prins Willim was destroyed in a fire early Thursday morning.

The ship was moored at the Willemsoord nautical museum in Den Helder.

The original vessel was the largest ever built for the Dutch East India Company in 1650, but sank off Madagascar in 1662.

The replica was built in Makkum, Friesland, in 1985 for an open-air museum in Nagasaki, Japan. It was returned to the Netherlands in 2003.

The blaze was discovered between midnight and one o'clock in the morning Thursday, but by that time the fire brigade was unable to control the fire.

The ship was allowed to burn itself out under the brigade's watch.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The Prince Willim is owned by developer Dirk Lips. The vessel is insured for allegedly about EUR 3 million, according to the Noordhollands Dagblad.

The museum's director, Herman Groenheide, is distraught at the loss of what he described as a very important tourist attraction for Den Helder.

“The Prins Willim has attracted two times as many visitors [this year] as last year,” Groenheide told the Noordhollands Dagblad.

According to the police, several hundred people gathered Thursday to look at the still-smouldering vessel, and take pictures. 

A local woman who was on the ship for a party only a week earlier described the situation as “unreal” and “shocking”.

Radio Netherlands / Expatica

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