Page last updated at 17:15 GMT, Friday, 23 January 2009

Scavengers remove washed-up wood

Timber being removed from Ramsgate beach
People were out in force on Ramsgate beach to remove the timber

Hundreds of people have been removing timber washed up on to beaches in Kent despite warnings to stay away.

Large amounts of wood washed ashore on the coastline around Ramsgate and Margate after the Russian-registered Sinegorsk shed its load, off Sussex.

Police, coastguards and the local authority warned scavengers to stay away for their own safety and to allow the official clean-up to take place.

But a constant stream of people braved pouring rain to remove loads of wood.

One told the BBC he did not know what he would do with the timber but it was "too good an opportunity to miss".

Another said he would clad an outbuilding if he could take away enough, otherwise he would build a tree house for his children.

Recover cargo

Signs are in place across the affected beaches warning people to stay away.

Kent Police and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, who are coordinating the clear-up, have been patrolling the area and contractors appointed by the ship's insurers have been recovering the lost cargo.

The Receiver of Wreck has warned that anyone who takes away timber must report it within 28 days.

Failure to do so is a criminal offence, with a fine of up to 2,500.

"This cargo remains the property of the original owner and to steal it is not only foolhardy, but also a criminal offence," said Chief Supt John Molloy.

Contractors removing timber from beach
Contractors have been appointed by the ship's insurers to remove the wood

Leader of Thanet District Council, Sandy Ezekiel, said: "It's really important that people stay away from the coastline at the moment.

"Having been down to check the scene for myself, I know how poor the weather conditions are and anyone who tries to get near the timber will be putting themselves at risk."

But one local man who was loading the wood on to a van, said: "In the midst of a recession the local people are trying to get a bit of luck, which this coastline has always provided for them."

The Sinegorsk shed its 1,500-tonne load during rough seas in a major shipping lane, 14 miles off Newhaven on Monday.

The vessel sailed on to Southampton to allow damage to be assessed and the remaining cargo to be secured.


Hundreds of tonnes of timber fell off a Russian cargo ship on Monday and has been washing ashore over the past few days

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