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Wednesday, 2 January, 2002, 11:06 GMT
Blast fears from stranded fuel tanker
Stranded tanker
Petrol vapour could explode on board the tanker Willy
Up to 75 people have been told to leave their homes in Cornwall because of the risk of explosion aboard a fuel tanker which ran aground on Tuesday night.

The Cypriot vessel Willy became stranded on the rocks at Cawsand, near Plymouth, at about 1045 GMT on Tuesday.

Devon and Cornwall Police said a half-mile exclusion zone had been imposed around the vessel, which is believed to have holes in its port and starboard tanks.

The crew of 12 - nine Filipinos, two Germans and a Croatian - were rescued during the night and taken to the home of local coastguard officers in Kingsand.

Evacuation centre
Villagers were ordered out of their homes
The ship's hold is empty, but vapours are escaping from the damaged and holed fuel bunkers.

Coastguard press officer Wailim Wong said the tanker was embedded on rocks, and at high tide it was hoped to attach cables to stabilise her.

Mr Wong said: "The main concern is the possibility of an explosion caused by fumes in the empty tanks."

The cables were being attached to stop the vessel moving about on rocks and possibly creating a spark.

Police said people living nearest to the scene had been moved from their homes and taken to the local village hall.

Pat Holdrup, who witnessed the stranding from Cawsand Fort, said: "I could see her drifting quite fast.

Tanker crew
Crew members were able to walk ashore
"She went on to the rocks very quickly.

"The emergency services were called just before 11pm. The lifeboat and coastguards were on the scene within 20 minutes.

"This has happened with smaller boats like yachts. This is the first big one I've seen in 12 years.

"It is a very sad sight - this vessel is a regular visitor to the area."

Diversions have been set up on roads around the area.

The ship discharged its cargo of petrol in Plymouth two days earlier and had been at anchor in Cawsand Bay.

The BBC's Simon Hall overlooking the stranded tanker
"The danger is simply that of explosion"

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See also:

31 Oct 01 | England
Warship scuttled for divers
11 Feb 00 | Sci/Tech
UK moves to protect coastline
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