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Last Updated: Sunday, 4 December 2005, 08:29 GMT
Cargo ship sinks in Italy storm

Bad weather has battered much of Italy, sinking a cargo ship off the north-west coast after strong winds drove it into a breakwater.

The boat's 13 crew are safe, but authorities fear more than 14,000 litres (3,000 gallons) of oil could leak from the ship's tanks.

Also in the north, hundreds of cars and lorries were snowed in, while Milan's tram system was knocked out.

Meanwhile, heavy rains and a high tide caused widespread flooding in Venice.


In La Spezia, the Georgia-registered bulk cement carrier Margaret dragged its anchor in high winds, hit a pier and sank in shallow water just off the commercial port.

Several anti-pollution vessels were quickly on the scene and others were to arrive on Sunday, the AFP news agency reported.

A coast guard helicopter flies over a sunken cargo ship close to La Spezia, Italy
There are fears an oil spill could cause environmental damage

"The situation is for the moment under control, our vigilance is at maximum level and anti-pollution measures were rapidly activated," Environment Minister Altero Matteoli said.

In Venice, water levels were so high as to cover raised walkways set up to overcome any eventual flooding.

St Mark's Square was covered by about 20cm (7.8in) of water, compelling tourists to cover their shoes with plastic bags.

The storm also hit Rome, drenching the Italian capital, flooding one of the main roads into the city.

See the chaos the bad weather has caused across Europe

Country profile: Italy
20 Nov 05 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Italy
20 Nov 05 |  Country profiles


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