A German tanker containing 2,400 tons of sulfuric acid capsized on the Rhine River early Thursday morning. Two of the four crew members are missing with local rescue workers using a helicopter with a thermal imaging camera to search for them in the icy waters. The river has been temporarily closed to shipping.
Local authorities said they did not know what caused the tanker to capsize. With the water temperature hovering around 4 degrees Celsius (39 degress Fahrenheit), the missing men could not be expected to survive long, they said. The two rescued crew members were brought to a nearby hospital and were in good condition, local authorities said.
There were no indications that the ship was leaking, and testing on the Rhine downstream showed no abnormalities, the Associated Press reported. Sulfuric acid is soluble in water and has many uses in the chemical industry, including for lead-acid car batteries and oil refining. The ship was traveling from Ludwigshafen in southern Germany to Antwerp, Belgium.
The accident occurred near the picturesque Lorelei rock, which sits on the eastern bank of the Rhine near the town of St. Goarshausen. The narrow bend in the river near the rock has strong currents and a rocky bottom, and has been the site of many maritime accidents.
The name Lorelei comes from the mythical mermaid who lured fishermen to their deaths by singing the most beautiful song they had ever heard. The Lorelei rock has been the inspiration for songs and poems, including Heinrich Heine's Die Lore-Ley, which tells the story of a siren luring shipmen with her singing, causing them to crash on rocks in the riverbed.