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Last Updated: Saturday, 14 July 2007, 09:17 GMT 10:17 UK
Birds rescued in Napoli oil leak
Oil leaking from the MSC Napoli. Picture courtesy of Maritime and Coastguard Agency
Residual oil has affected beaches and birdlife. Picture: MCA
Oil-covered birds have been rescued at an east Devon beach where the stricken container ship MSC Napoli is being broken up.

Salvage experts are attempting to break the grounded ship in two in Branscombe Bay, after which the bow section would be towed away and the stern sunk.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said the oil was residual pollution left over from the tanks being pumped out.

The RSPCA said seven birds were saved and it was preparing to rescue more.

The National Trust has told people to avoid the area.

The ship, carrying 2,300 containers, was originally grounded in January after being damaged in storms.

She was refloated this week but beached again on Thursday when a diving survey revealed the vessel was more severely damaged than feared.

It is very sad that this has happened again but our staff will do everything we can to give the birds the best possible chance of survival
Tim Thomas, RSCPA

Salvage experts were removing ballast in an attempt to break up the vessel by causing the hull to sag.

The MCA is hoping the bow section will stay afloat and be towed away and the stern will sink to the seabed and eventually be removed.

The operation could take up to a year.

Tim Thomas, a senior scientific officer in the RSPCA's wildlife department, said the rescued birds, believed to be guillemots, were heavily oiled.

He said: "We only recently released nearly 500 guillemots back into the wild after they were covered in oil in January after the Napoli was grounded.

"It is very sad that this has happened again but our staff will do everything we can to give the birds the best possible chance of survival."

Small amounts of light oil has been seen on Branscombe Beach and heavy crude oil in the sea.

Oil on a beach near the MSC Napoli
Salvage teams are cleaning up oil patches on beaches

"We have asked the contractors on site to urgently deal with any oil and we are placing signs alerting the public," a National Trust spokesperson said.

"The National Trust will now want to be fully satisfied that the environment and local communities' interests are properly protected in deciding on how the wreck of the Napoli is to be disposed of."

A spokesman for the MCA said: "There will be small amounts of pollution, that is unfortunate, but all the resources are in place to try and prevent that pollution getting any worse."

An East Devon District Council spokesperson said salvage teams were cleaning up patches on Branscombe Beach and may spray dispersants on the water.

The spokesperson added the council would continue to monitor the situation closely.

Salvors are working to attempt a controlled break-up


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