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France averts cargo ship crash in ‘last chance’ rescue

© AFP file photo | The Panamean-registered cargo ship “Modern Express” drifting off the western coast of France.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2016-02-01

French authorities on Monday announced that a last attempt to stop a stricken cargo ship from crashing into France’s Atlantic coast had been a success.

Four specialists rappelled down to the ship from a helicopter then attached a metal cable to help tow the vessel to a safe place.

“The convoy is now heading west at a speed of three nautical miles. The last chance operation was a success”, French coastline officials said on Monday.

The Panamanian-registered Modern Express cargo ship was set to hit the coastline not far from the western French resort of La Rochelle at some point between Monday night and Tuesday night.

The 22 crew of the Modern Express were evacuated by helicopter in dramatic scenes last Tuesday after an unexplained breakdown caused the boat to tilt dangerously.

With the boat leaning over at 40 to 50 degrees, salvage teams were initially unable to fix a towline to the 164-metre-long (538-foot) vessel, and bad weather once again disrupted efforts on Sunday.

As well as its cargo of diggers and timber, the boat was carrying 300 tonnes of fuel oil.
French authorities said there was a limited risk of pollution in the event of a crash, but a depollution vessel was at the scene.

A specialist salvage team from the Netherlands managed to attach a tow line over the weekend but it was snapped in the rough seas.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Date created : 2016-01-31

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