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Wednesday, 2 August, 2000, 16:06 GMT 17:06 UK
Tanker coastguards praised
Pentland coastguards have been honoured for their role in preventing a burning chemical tanker from hitting the Caithness coast.

Officers at the Kirkwall station co-ordinated the rescue effort when the Ascania, carrying a highly volatile cargo, lost power and began drifting towards Dunnet Head in March.

The station co-ordinated a massive search and rescue effort involving a helicopter, lifeboats, tugs and coastguard rescue teams.

Up to 200 residents were forced to leave their homes because of the risk of explosion as the Ascania drifted toward rocks.

All 14 Fijian crew members and the tanker's German skipper were winched to safety by an RAF helicopter.

Their efforts have been recognised with a commendation from the chief coastguard John Astbury.

After the incident, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said they had set the standard for the whole operation.

Officers said the incident showed why it was necessary to retain the station, which is due to shut at the end of this year.

The coxswain of the lifeboat that towed the chemical tanker away from rocks was awarded for his bravery in May.

Bill Farquhar, 52, was at the helm of the Thurso lifeboat as the Ascania drifted towards Dunnet Head.

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