Fertiliser cargo ship breaks up off French coast

by Reuters
Wednesday, 5 February 2014 16:31 GMT

(Updates with transport minister saying hold was empty)

ANGLET, France, Feb 5 (Reuters) - A Spanish cargo ship broke in two on Wednesday after hitting a sea wall off the southwestern coast of France in high winds and was leaking some fuel into the water, French officials said.

However the government said initial fears that the ship was loaded with fertilisers were unfounded.

"It was an empty freight ship," Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier told BFM-TV television.

Two helicopters lifted a dozen crew members to safety, said Jean Espilondo, the mayor of Anglet, a town near the French border with Spain that is close to the scene of the incident.

"Everyone was evacuated. They appear to be safe and sound and will be taken to hospital for checks," Espilondo told Reuters.

The Luno had suffered engine problems before the incident, Espilondo said. It was not immediately clear what volume of fertiliser it was carrying.

Patrick Dallennes, a local government prefect, said the ship had between 120-160 cubic metres of fuel in its tanks at the time of the incident.

"For the moment the pollution is limited," he told Reuters. (Reporting by Claude Cannellas; Writing by Brian Love; Editing by Alison Williams and Mark John)

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