Page last updated at 14:30 GMT, Friday, 5 February 2010

Hartlepool 'ghost ship' fire tackled by crews

The project to dismantle the ship is one of the largest of its kind in Europe

Up to 50 firefighters tackled a fire on a so-called "ghost ship" being dismantled at a yard on Teesside.

Crews battled flames on the former French aircraft carrier Clemenceau near Hartlepool for more than an hour.

Able UK said 70 people had been working on the ship when the fire broke out. There are no reported injuries and the fire was not thought to be toxic.

A Cleveland Fire Brigade spokesman said the fire, which was contained within three compartments, started in cabling.

Emergency services, including police, ambulance and a rescue boat, attended the scene when the alert was raised at 0910 GMT.

Cleveland Police said approach roads to the yard had been closed.

'No public risk'

Neil Etherington, of Able UK, said an investigation was under way into the cause of the fire at the Seaton Port facility.

He said: "At this stage it is too early to say exactly what happened, but obviously we have already begun investigations, working with the fire service and other agencies.

"It is always unfortunate when an incident of this kind occurs but we are pleased that our well-rehearsed emergency procedures worked well and that the fire was brought under control with no risk to the public and with no injuries to any personnel."

The Clemenceau, which arrived at the dry dock a year ago, was turned away by India and Egypt for being too toxic to be broken up.

Able UK said the project to dismantle the 32,700-tonne Clemenceau is one of the largest of its kind in Europe.

Work on the vessel is taking place alongside existing contracts to scrap four former US naval vessels which arrived on Teesside in 2004.

Toxic elements

Able UK, which overcame environmental concerns over its recycling plans last year, says operating in a dry dock is the easiest and most environmentally-sound way of carrying out the work.

According to Able UK, the 255-metre Clemenceau contains 700 tonnes of asbestos-contaminated materials.

It was recalled to France from India in 2006 amid concerns over its toxic elements.

The Clemenceau, once the pride of the French navy, spent its final few years being moved around as officials tried to find a final resting place for the vessel.

Launched in 1957, it sailed more than a million nautical miles and saw service in Lebanon, the first Gulf War and the Balkans before being decommissioned in 1997.

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