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Sunday, 6 January, 2002, 18:23 GMT
Salvage team hunts for leak
Salvage vessel
Calm seas enabled salvage vessels to go alongside
Salvage experts are trying to trace the source of a leak on board a tanker that stranded on a Cornish beach last week.

They need to halt flooding in the engine room before the 3,000-ton MV Willy can be refloated from the beach at Kingsand, at the entrance to Plymouth Sound.

Homes evacuated because of the risk of an explosion - but Kingsand and Cawsand villages have been packed with sightseers since an exclusion zone was reduced.

Fears remain that the internationally-important ecology of Plymouth Sound could be harmed if fuel escapes during the salvage operation.

Floating crane
A floating crane has begun lifting salvage gear
The work has been hampered because the salvage team was having to work with an out-of-date set of plans.

It was having difficulty locating fuel tanks on the ship.

The ship has been modified since being built in the 1980s, but the salvage team only has a copy of the original plans.

Most of the tanks in the hold had been cleared of their cargo of petrol in Plymouth, days before the ship went aground on Tuesday night.

But around 70,000 tonnes of fuel must be removed from two other tanks.

Tanker timeline
Tuesday 1 January, 2245 GMT: MV Willy drags its anchors and hits rocks. Crew wade ashore. Police set up an exclusion zone.
Wednesday 0515 GMT: Kingsand homes are evacuated amid fears of explosion.
Wednesday lunchtime: a safety crew opens holds to clear petrol vapour.
Wednesday evening: many villagers return home, despite warnings.
Thursday evening: Kingsand 're-opens' as danger fades.
Weekend: a floating crane loads salvage gear.

The team from United Salvage Ltd must find the leak before the pump-out can begin.

A floating crane began loading pumping equipment aboard the ship on Saturday, with a tug standing by.

The crane barge, Gray Mammoth, had travelled from the North Sea to join the salvage operation, which could take 10 days.

Divers are inspecting the underside of the ship.

The county council has beach-cleaning specialists ready to act should any fuel spillages take place during the salvage operation.

The vessel lies in the Plymouth Sound and Estuaries Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Area (SPA).

It was driven on to rocks while sheltering from a storm in Cawsand Bay.

Click here to go to Devon
See also:

03 Jan 02 | England
Grounded tanker risk recedes
03 Jan 02 | England
Experts board grounded ship
02 Jan 02 | England
Stranded ship seals off village
02 Jan 02 | England
Stranded ship threatens homes
31 Oct 01 | England
Warship scuttled for divers
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