More than 100 shipping containers fell from crippled cargo ship off B.C. coast

The severity of a marine disaster off Vancouver Island is far worse than first reported, according to internal coast guard communications obtained by CTV News.

The emails sent on Tuesday evening show the cargo ship Zim Kingston's owner underestimated the number of shipping containers that fell from the vessel during a storm.

Originally, the Canadian Coast Guard reported that 40 containers fell from the ship in heavy seas and high winds Friday, but now it appears there are more than 100 containers drifting off Vancouver Island.

"The owner now believes that 109 containers were lost in the initial event," one email says.

The email also confirmed that only two of the containers are believed to have dangerous goods inside them.

The updated number comes after the owner of the vessel provided information showing 2,000 containers were on board with 1,000 on deck when two caught fire and others fell overboard as the ship approached Vancouver last week.

In a situation update Wednesday afternoon, the coast guard confirmed that 109 containers were lost.

The stricken Zim Kingston vessel remains anchored off Victoria. Shortly after the containers slipped overboard, the vessel also suffered a serious fire inside containers on the ship. The fire continues to smoulder in containers at the bottom of a large stack.

Crews attacked flare-ups inside individual containers overnight, which didn't spread, and they continued to look for hot spots on Wednesday, coast guard official Paul Barrett said.

Air quality monitoring has not found any contaminants of concern at levels that put public health at risk, provincial incident commander Zachery Scher said.

'CONTAINERS WILL HAVE ALREADY SUNK OR WILL SINK'

Deputy federal incident commander Mariah McCooey said three of the lost containers have washed up on a beach in Cape Scott on the northern tip of Vancouver Island.

A flyover was planned Wednesday starting from where the containers were lost and following the path where they've been spotted and are projected to drift.

Due to vents on the containers that allow water in, the coast guard does not expect many of the boxes will be recovered.

“It is command speculation that containers will have already sunk or will sink," a coast guard email says. "Command speculation does not expect any containers to be found / recovered at this point."

The coast guard's unified command now has a list of contents from all containers identified as having gone overboard.

Contents include Christmas decorations, sofas, poker tables, metal car parts, clothing, toys, yoga mats, stand-up paddleboards, industrial parts and other miscellaneous items.

With files from The Canadian Press