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  • Grande America had been on fire since March 10, the burning intensified on Wednesday.

    Grande America had been on fire since March 10, the burning intensified on Wednesday. | Photo: Marine Nationale

Published 14 March 2019

The oil spill measuring 10 km long and one km wide could reach the coast of southern Brittany by the end of the weekend, French authorities said Thursday.

French authorities expect an oil slick to reach its coast after the Italian “Grande America” ship capsized Tuesday in the Atlantic carrying 2,200 tons of heavy fuel.

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The oil spill measuring 10 km long and one km wide could reach the coast of southern Brittany by the end of the weekend, French authorities said Thursday. Four ships have been sent to limit its spread and preparations are underway for a clean-up operation on land.

"There is a risk, so we must do everything to reduce it and to reduce the impact of pollution of our coasts," French Environment Minister François de Rugy told BFM news channel.

On Tuesday the Italian container ship “Grande America” capsized and sank, after catching fire approximately 330 km off the coast from La Rochelle in western France. The vessel was carrying 2,200 ton of heavy fuel while sailing from Hamburg to Casablanca. U.K.’s Royal Navy frigate Argyll rescued all 27 crew members from the water.

The multi-mission frigate (FREMM) Aquitaine and the BSAA (building support and Charter assistance) VN Sapper are still on the zone. They continue to ensure the safety and monitoring of navigation.
 

Grimaldi Lines, the company that operates the ship, said in a statement that 365 containers had been onboard, 45 of which contained "hazardous materials." Among them were ten tons of hydrochloric acid and 70 tons of sulphuric acid, according to the Head of the regional maritime authority, Vice Admiral Jean-Louis Lozier.

As footage from the French navy showed thick black smoke, Lozier added that the disaster "would not have serious consequences for the environment," since most of the materials had already burned. However, environmental organizations disagree.

"Everything that burned- the containers, the drums of hydrochloric, and sulphuric acid- that doesn't disappear. It goes up into the atmosphere," Director of the Center of Ocean Studies at the Catholic Institute of Paris, Christian Buchet told Luxembourg news outlet RTL. While French environmental campaign group Robin des Bois said it would file a criminal complaint over the environmental damage.

This spill comes eight years after the Maltese-registered cargo ship TK Bremen ran aground in Brittany in 2011, spewing 220 tons of fuel into the nearby area.

Images of the oil slick from the maritime patrol aircraft

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