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Saturday, 14 December, 2002, 15:28 GMT
Ship sinks after Channel collision
The Tricolor
The Tricolor is now lying on the seabed
A Norwegian car carrier has sunk in the English Channel after colliding with a container ship in thick fog in the early hours of Saturday.

The 24 crew members from the Tricolor abandoned ship and took to lifeboats after the collision at 0130 GMT, about 30 miles (48 kilometres) east of Ramsgate, Kent.

The container ship - the Kariba, registered in the Bahamas - was severely damaged and is making for port with its crew still on board.

There are no reports of any casualties.

The Tricolor had picked up its cargo of 2,862 cars and 77 containers in Zeebrugge, Belgium, and was on its way to Southampton, said Per Ronnevig, spokesman for its owners, shipping firm Wilhelmsen Lines.

A UK coastguard spokesman said: "The car carrier quickly developed a 15 degree list and its crew abandoned the vessel."

A spokesman for the French coastguard said the crew of the Tricolor had been rescued and were "safe and sound".

The Tricolor's captain and two officers were taken on board the Kariba, which is making its way to the Belgian port of Antwerp for inspection, coastguards said.

Warship at scene

The rest of the Tricolor's crew were picked up by a tug boat and have been taken to hospital in the French port of Dunkirk.

Lloyd's Casualty Reporting Service confirmed the 49,792-ton Tricolor had sunk and the 20,829-ton Kariba had been seriously damaged.

Dover Coastguard said a Belgian warship, the Wandelaar, was in the area helping French coastguards to deal with the incident.

A UK coastguard emergency towing vessel was sent to the scene along with other tugs.

Pollution barrier

The Tricolor was initially only partly submerged because of a low tide.

But it later disappeared from view.

Mark Clark from Dover coastguard said: "The vessel is now down below the surface, it has obviously settled.

"What you can see from the surface is just the top of the lifeboat, which is fixed to the side of the vessel - she is resting on her side - and that just comes up above the waves every now and again."

UK coastguards said it was now up to the ship's owners as to what would happen to the vessel's cargo.

The incident is being managed by the French authorities. A barrier is being put up around the wreck to contain any pollution.

An inquiry will be launched by the French authorities into the cause of the accident, but immediate investigations are being hampered by the thick fog.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Richard Slee
"Its crew of 24 were all rescued"

Click here to go to Kent

Click here to go to Southampton
See also:

11 Dec 02 | Europe
16 Dec 01 | Wales
31 Oct 00 | Europe
14 May 02 | England
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