A crippled cargo ship was drifting slowly towards the French Atlantic coast on Friday as rescue teams struggled to board the distressed vessel.
The Modern Express, which was transporting 3,600 tonnes of wood from Owendo in Gabon to France’s northern port of Le Havre, listed heavily to one side earlier this week in rough seas and has not recovered to an upright position, leading to the evacuation of the crew by helicopter.
French media reports said the problem may be due to its cargo having shifted.
As of Friday morning, the vessel was less than 300 kilometres from the western port town of La Rochelle, after being estimated at around 370 km from the port on Thursday afternoon, a spokesman for the French Atlantic coast authority told Reuters.
The extreme 50-degree incline of the ship as well as difficult sea conditions had so far prevented teams from boarding to proceed with towing operations, but weather was more favourable on Friday, he said.
There was no imminent risk of the ship reaching the coast and no sign that water had entered the vessel or that fuel had leaked out, he said, adding that the French navy had sent a specialised anti-pollution ship as a precaution to join a frigate and three tugboats already at the scene.
(Reporting by Valerie Parent, writing by Gus Trompiz; Editing by Andrew Callus)