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17 December 2011

Fuel Leak Off French Coast From Beached Cargo Ship

ERDEVEN, France (AP) -- High winds have beached a cargo ship on France's jagged Atlantic coast and some of the 220 tons of fuel on board are leaking and threatening a local beach, the local prefecture says.

The 19-member crew of the "TK Bremen" was evacuated by helicopter early Friday as the vessel ran aground 100 meters (some 60 yards) from Erdeven beach in southern Brittany, on the northwest coat of France.

The prefecture of the Morbihan region said in a statement that the kilometer-long strip of fuel was headed towards the beach. A giant nature preserve of dunes and wildlife runs through Erdevan, one of numerous small towns on the coast that attracts tourists seeking fine wind and air.

The prefecture warned people to stay indoors as rescuers pumped fuel from the hold of the Maltese flagged ship in a bid to empty it.

"The high winds, gusting to hurricane-force in spots, are being fueled by an intense low-pressure system that slammed into northwest France Thursday night (U.S. time)," weather.com Meteorologist Chris Dolce said of the storm being called "Joachim" by the French.

The French electric company said Friday that some 320,000 homes were without electricity as winds of up to 130 kilometers per hour (81 mph) blew across France, triggering alerts in numerous regions. Most of the outages were in the country's west, but some areas in the east and southeast were hit as the storm moved across France.

France's train authority, SNCF, said traffic was hobbled in Brittany and at one point all but paralyzed in the Pays-de-la-Loire, further south, just as classes closed for the Christmas season and many people were setting off on vacation.
Despite the strong winds and damage reports, there have been no reports of deaths or significant injuries in France so far.

- AP