Croatian firefighters have contained a blaze aboard a Turkish cargo ship whose toxic load threatened to pollute the Adriatic coastline, authorities said on Thursday.
"Two tugboats which have been pouring water on the ship's hull all night succeeded in lowering its temperature," Dino Kozlevac, a firefighting official told national television.
"The situation has now clearly improved, which will allow us to transport firefighters on to the ship by helicopter," he said.
Authorities had previously feared an environmental disaster as the ship, which was transporting 200 trucks and nine tonnes of oil derivates, had looked as though it would sink after the fire erupted on Wednesday.
But most of the inflammable cargo on board the vessel had already burned out on Thursday, lessening the likelihood of an explosion which had prompted orders to the tugs brought in to extinguish the blaze to keep a safe distance from the vessel.
Two firefighting planes were also dispatched to help put out the fire, which gutted the interior of the Und Adriyatik.
Five specialist Dutch firefighters were to be put on the 193-metre (637-feet) ship during the day to try to completely extinguish the blaze, Kozlevac added.
The ship was still in flames mid-morning, and an explosion was heard from its interior, acccording to an AFP photographer who managed to get close to the vessel.
Five tugboats, including two from Italy, were close to the ship pouring water over the hull, which was distorted by heat. Another tug made preparations to haul the vessel away from the coastline.
All nine passengers and 22 crew members aboard the Und Adriyatik were rescued Wednesday soon after the national search and rescue centre was alerted that the vessel was on fire some 25 kilometres (15 miles) west of the port of Rovinj.
They were tranported on a Greek ship to the Italian port of Venice. Four of them suffered slight burns.
Croatian authorities have not yet said what caused the fire on the ship, which was sailing from Istanbul to the northern Italian port of Trieste. (AFP)
Firefighters spare Croatia coast from toxic ship blaze