French authorities are working to contain a fuel spill off the Atlantic Coast after an Italian container ship sank following a fire.
Disaster officials are bracing for a huge oil slick to hit the country’s coastline as a result of the capsizing.
Grimaldi Lines, which operates the ship, said in a statement that 365 containers had been on board, 45 of which contained “hazardous materials”.
Among them were 10 tonnes of hydrochloric acid and 70 tonnes of sulphuric acid, according to Vice Admiral Jean-Louis Lozier, head of the regional maritime authority.
Four ships have been sent to deal with the spill and preparations are underway for a clean-up operation on land.
French and British rescue teams saved all 27 people aboard the Grande America after it sank Tuesday, according to a French government statement.
Images released yesterday by the French navy showed flames and plumes of black smoke spewing from the ship as it listed sharply.
The regional maritime authority says the ship has since leaked fuel over an area of about 10 kilometres long and one kilometre wide. The ship was carrying about 2,200 tons of fuel before the accident, the French government minister in charge of environmental matters, Francois de Rugy, told BFM television yesterday.
France has also reached out to the European Maritime Security Agency for help using satellites to locate leaks.
The ship sank about 330 kilometres west of the French city of La Rochelle, while en route from Hamburg to Casablanca.
The regional prosecutor has opened an investigation, and France has issued a formal warning to the ship’s operator to assess the damage and help prevent more leaking, de Rugy said.