France issues pollution alert as ship splits off Basque coast

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A sample of fuel oil.
Image: Glasbruch2007.

Officials in France have issued a pollution alert after an unladen freighter grounded on a breakwater at Anglet, Basque yesterday. The vessel split in two and is leaking fuel oil.

The Luno had 120–160 cubic metres of fuel aboard when it broke down and high winds and waves pushed it into the breakwater. Helicopters rescued the twelve crewmembers and the only injury was a broken nose. The 100-metre ship was en route to pick up its usual fertiliser cargo and initially officials feared the vessel could spill a load.

The ship has split around the breakwater, one part remaining on the rocks at one side and the other pushed almost to the beach on the other. Junior transport, seas, and fishing minister Frederic Cuvillier is heading to Anglet. Anglet is near the Spanish border, with the ship registered in Spain.

One eyewitness, commenting to BBC News, called the rescuers "brave considering the state of the sea". She said the ship had tried to anchor itself but broke away.