Break in weather allows oil slick clean-up to start

Environment Minister says pumping operations can begin 'today or tomorrow' in radio interview on Friday

A break in the weather off the Atlantic coast of France should allow operations to clean-up a 10km long oil slick caused by the sinking of the Grande America cargo ship earlier this week, environment minister François de Rugy has said.

"The weather will allow for pumping operations today or tomorrow," Mr Rugy told Sud Radio on Friday morning.

The Minister of Ecological Transition explained that such operations, "are only possible if the wind weakens". "We are doing everything we can to limit the possible impact," he added.

As reported, The vessel was en route from Germany to Morocco when a fire broke out on Sunday. All 27 people on board were evacuated by a British Navy frigate the following day. The ship sank some 300km west of La Rochelle on Tuesday.

As well as 2,200 tonnes of heavy fuel oil for the ship's engines, 365 containers were onboard, "of which 45 are carrying dangerous materials" including hydrochloric acid and sulphuric acid, as well as around 2,000 vehicles. About 40 containers fell into the sea before the ship went down.

Gironde and Charente-Maritime have placed their services in a "pre-alert phase". Despite the clean-up at sea, both departments anticipate coastal pollution.

Mr Rugy said: "This raises the question of the fuels we use in ships. We have begun a transformation of maritime transport to abandon heavy fuel oil in cargo ships."

Read more: Oil slick heads to French coast after cargo ship sinks

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