By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife reporting from The Netherlands
URK, NETHERLANDS (BosNewsLife)-- A replica of Noah's Ark was drifting away in a severe storm Wednesday, January 3, at the port of Dutch town Urk, smashing several boats and prompting the rescue of seven people on board the massive vessel, eyewitnesses told BosNewsLife. There were no reports of injuries, but rescue teams struggled to regain control of the wood-and-steel ark, which has no engine and measures 70 meters (230 feet) long and some 13 meters (43 feet) high.
"After cables broke, the vessel of Biblical proportions was moving out of control in high winds," said Pieter Molenaar, a fisherman. "I saw how it smashed into at least five sightseeing boats that were docked on the other side of the port," he added.
Molenaar and local officials said all seven people on board were brought to safety. "But there are also snakes in the ark, and I am not sure what has happened to them," Molenaar added. The 29-year-old fisherman said it was the first such accident in the Port of Urk in years.
Video footage obtained by BosNewsLife show the ark moving towards several boats as bystanders watch in horror. "Questions will be asked whether Urk authorities did enough to prevent this accident. They knew that a major storm was coming," Molenaar said.
Heavy winds prompted the Netherlands to close all five storm surge barriers for the first time as wind speeds searched to up to 140 kilometers (87 miles) per hour.
Before the storm, Noah's Ark was a welcome attraction in Urk, a small picturesque town known for many churches and a thriving fishing community, 85 kilometers (53 miles) northeast of the capital Amsterdam.
The vessel was purchased in 2010 by Dutch puppeteer Aad Peters who turned it into the world's first floating Bible theme park. Wednesday's mishap wasn't its first accident. In 2016 'Noah’s Ark' crashed into a Norwegian Coast Guard patrol boat in the Port of Oslo, Norway. No animals were on board, and no one was injured, but the ark’s wooden cladding was damaged, officials said at the time.
The vessel docked in Urk is one of two reconstructions that a Dutch carpenter named Johan Huibers painstakingly built over seven years, based on the Biblical description.
Noah and his loved ones were the only humans who survived along with animals on the ark, following God's decision to return the Earth to its pre-creation state of watery chaos and remake it, the Bible says.
More than a million people have visited the replicas of the ark to see domesticated animals like llamas, ponies or rabbits, and to hear what both Huibers and Peters described as a message of God’s love and forgiveness for a world in turmoil.
(*Video footage below).
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