French rescuers pump stricken Spanish ship

Teams from a salvage company and a French coast guard anti-pollution squad are to start pumping fuel out of a Spanish cargo ship which has broken into three sections after a spectacular shipwreck in bad weather.

French rescuers pump stricken Spanish ship
The 'Luno' slammed into a seawall in France on Wednesday and has broken into three sections. Photo: GAIZKA IROZ / AFP

The operation will be a race against time as it must be carried out in the two hours of low tide on Friday and before new storms forecast for the weekend hit France's Atlantic coast.

The 20-year-old Spanish vessel split in two when winds and waves smashed it up against an artificial breakwater near the French port of Bayonne on Wednesday. The crew of 11 were rescued by helicopter in perilous conditions. Later, one of the segments broke into two.

Fearing a fuel leak, French authorities launched an emergency plan to deal with maritime pollution. Some 20 tonnes of fuel likely dispersed into the sea.

The coast guard teams, along with firefighters, salvage experts contracted by the ship's owner, and the vessel's chief engineer plan to pump out the 60 to 70 tonnes of fuel found in the front part of the ship, which is washed up on a beach. The other two segments do not contain fuel tanks.

The operation will be "difficult," local mayor Jean Espilondo said, because the front end "is lying at a 15-degree angle under the force of the waves".

A probe has been opened into the accident. The crew members were being interviewed on Thursday and Friday.

A source close to the investigation said the ship had come empty from Spain to pick up a cargo of ball-bearings.

As it tried to enter Bayonne's port late on Tuesday it suffered an electrical malfunction that left it drifting for a while.

On Wednesday, with power restored and two tugboats helping, it tried again to enter port but a new blackout occurred, leaving it helpless in the water, at which point it struck the breakwater.

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Cattle on stranded ship should be killed, Spanish vet report says

More than 850 cows that were stranded aboard a ship in the Mediterranean for months are not fit for transport, a confidential report by Spanish government veterinarians said, according to Reuters.

Cattle on stranded ship should be killed, Spanish vet report says
The ship had struggled to find buyers for the cattle after it was rejected from Turkey. Illustration photo: Miguel Riopa/AFP

The ship carrying the cattle, called Karim Allah, had struggled to find a buyer for the cattle for the past two months. It finally docked in the southeastern Spanish port of Cartagena on Thursday.

Several countries rejected the animals for fear they had bovine bluetongue virus, which causes lameness and haemorrhaging among cattle, but does not affect humans.

The veterinarians’ report, seen by Reuters, said the animals had suffered from the journey, and were unwell and not fit for transport outside the EU. 

It did not say if the cattle had bluetongue disease, but recommended euthanasia as the best solution for their health and welfare.

The cattle likely have severe health problems after their “hellish” crossing, animal rights activist Silvia Barquero, director of the Igualdad Animal NGO, told Reuters.

The NGO is calling for Spain to end the transport of animals outside the EU.


The Agriculture Ministry told Reuters it will make appropriate decisions after analysing information from the inspection.

The ship left Cartagena to deliver the cattle to Turkey, but authorities there blocked the shipment fearing bluetongue infection.

This led to several other countries refusing entry even to replenish animal feed, forcing the cows to go several days with just water.

The Agriculture Ministry’s experts said 864 animals were alive on board. Twenty-two cows died at sea, with two corpses still aboard. The remains of others were chopped up and thrown overboard during the journey, the report said.

Ownership of the cattle is unclear.