BERLIN — A tanker loaded with sulfuric acid capsized on the Rhine river in Germany on Thursday, and special cranes and more than 100 rescuers struggled to right the vessel and find two crew members who remain missing.
There was no immediate word on why the ship capsized, the shipping office in Bingen said. Two other crew members were rescued from the ship, which overturned near St. Goarshausen, in western Germany, early in the day.
"Suddenly the ship just disappeared from the radar," said Martin Mauermann, the head of the Office of Water and Shipping in Bingen, adding that could mean the vessel submerged completely before turning on its side and floating to the surface.
"It's an abstruse case," he said.
The 360-foot (110-meter) long tanker was carrying 2,400 tons of sulfuric acid. There were no indications that the load was leaking and initial measurements carried out downstream from the scene showed no abnormalities, the shipping office said.
Yet given the difficulty of righting the vessel, leakage of the chemicals cannot be ruled out, Kurt Beck, governor of Rhineland-Palatinate state, told reporters.
"It is possible that we won't be able to right the ship with the cranes," Beck said.
Authorities closed a stretch of the Rhine to shipping. The river, swollen from melting snow caused by a recent spate of unseasonably warm weather has flooded the Rhine and its waters were running fast.
The German-owned ship was on its way from the BASF chemical company in the southwestern German city of Ludwigshafen to Antwerp, Belgium.
The accident happened on a picturesque stretch of the Rhine near the famed Loreley cliff, where the river runs 370 feet (113 meters) wide and 82 feet (25 meters) deep, making it one of the most dangerous bends in the river.
Legends of a beautiful maiden on the Loreley singing to sailors passing on the waters below are told to have cost countless men their lives.