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1967: Supertanker Torrey Canyon hits rocks
Supertanker Torrey Canyon has run aground on rocks between Land's End and the Scilly Isles and is leaking its cargo of oil into the sea.

The 974-ft (297m) tanker, which was carrying 100,000 tons of crude oil, hit Pollard's Rock in the Seven Stones reef.

The oil patch already forming is believed to be the biggest ever to threaten the West Country coastline.

There are fears that the beaches of Cornwall, Devon and Dorset could be hit by the slick.

Cornish beaches

The Navy is plotting the direction of the oil, which is heading slowly towards the French coast, but say a slight change in wind direction could send it towards Cornish beaches.

Troops will regularly patrol around the coastline to give some indication of where the oil might be heading.

The 2nd Infantry Brigade, stationed at Plymouth, is standing by to assist if the oil threatens beaches.

A Penzance lifeboat official said the position was "serious" because the oil could cover the whole of the south-west coast for the next year.

The crew of the Seven Stones lightship, two miles off the reef, said they realised the tanker was in danger when she was still a mile from the disaster.

There are also fears that the supertanker could catch fire or break-up in heavy seas.

Up to 10,000 gallons of oil detergent are on their way from Grangemouth in Scotland to Falmouth.

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Torrey Canyon
The oil slick spreading from the Torrey Canyon could reach Cornish beaches

Ariel shots of stricken tanker (mute)

In Context
The crew of the Liberian-registered Torrey Canyon were rescued by helicopters and lifeboats although the captain and three of his crew initially stayed on board.

In the weeks that followed the accident, oil escaped and spread along the shores of the south coast of England and the Normandy coast of France.

Worst hit were the Cornish beaches of Marazion and Prah Sands, where sludge was up to a foot deep. Up to 70 miles (113km) of beaches were seriously contaminated.

More than 20,000 sea birds were contaminated by the oil as a result of the disaster.

Maurice Foley, Under Secretary for the Navy, said that it was the biggest problem of its kind ever faced by any nation and announced the Government would spend 500,000 on the south-west and Scilly Isles.

The vessel was bombed for two days until it finally sank on 30 March 1967 and the oil slick was eventually dispersed by favourable weather.

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