Eleven sailors were evacuated by helicopter after a Spanish cargo ship slammed into a dyke and split in two near the French port of Bayonne on Wednesday as strong winds battered the Atlantic coast.
The local mayor's office said the boat had crashed into the dyke amid heavy seas near the town of Anglet on its way to Bayonne in southwestern France.
The prefecture for the Pyrenees-Atlantiques region said it had suffered a "complete electrical breakdown".
The rescue operation was complicated by lashing winds of up to 110 kilometres (70 miles) an hour.
Officials said a fuel leak had been detected and an emergency plan known as Polmar had been activated to deal with maritime pollution.
But Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier, who rushed to the scene, said there was probably no risk "of massive pollution".
The prefecture said one of the sailors suffered minor injuries.
It said the Luno cargo ship, 100 metres (330 feet) long, had been empty.
Questions being asked
An AFP reporter at the scene described half of the boat as resting on the dyke while the other half was lying on the beach at Anglet – a favourite spot for surfers in France.
Local mayor Jean Espilondo questioned why the boat had been given authorisation to enter the port in bad weather.
"We know that the entry conditions for the port of Bayonne are very difficult," he said.
He added that the town would have to wait until the sea calmed down to make sure that none of the ship's reservoirs had been pierced.
The Meteo France weather service had earlier put nine regions on France's northern and Atlantic coasts on alert due to bad weather.
In Brittany, about 25,000 people were without power late on Tuesday after high winds brought by Atlantic storm Petra, which was wreaking similar havoc in southwestern England.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2014-02-05