Russian cargo ship grounded off beach

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Media captionRussian cargo ship runs aground in Cornwall

A 16,000-tonne Russian cargo ship has run aground off a beach in Cornwall.

The Kuzma Minin grounded off Gyllyngvase Beach in Falmouth at about 05:40 GMT.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has declared a major incident and said the 590ft (180m) ship had a list of about five degrees.

An operation to refloat the vessel will take place at high tide at 13:15. There is no cargo on the ship, which has 18 Russian crew on board.

Three harbour tugs and a lifeboat are attempting to attach a line to the vessel so it can be towed off the beach when the tide starts to rise.

The Met Office has issued a yellow warning of severe weather for the area, with 65mph winds forecast.

If the operation is unsuccessful, coastguards will abandon the vessel for the rest of the day and attempt to refloat it at high tide on Wednesday.

Latest news from Cornwall and on the Kuzma Minin

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Nigel Kitto

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The coastguard said the refloating operation was “tricky and delicate” given the weather

Marc Thomas, senior coastal operations manager, said the coastguard was having to work “really hard to manoeuvre the vessels” amid windy conditions.

Mr Thomas said: “They’re obviously in danger too. It’s a real tricky, delicate operation they’re going through at the moment.”

Falmouth harbourmaster Mark Sansom added: “Obviously the weather conditions are very poor but we are expecting them to improve and we’ll be looking for that opportunity to refloat the vessel.”

The coastguard said there had been no reports of any pollution and an area around the ship had been cordoned off.

A helicopter team winched coastguard members on to the ship earlier in order to check up on the Kuzma Minin’s crew.

At the scene

By Naomi Kennedy, BBC News

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The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said an operation to refloat the ship would take place at high tide

The cargo ship is so close to the shore it seems almost as if you could walk to it or touch it. Hundreds of people have been prompted to take a look.

The rain is relentless, the wind’s about 52mph but the weather makes little difference at low tide.

Behind closed doors, those who declared this a major incident will be watching and waiting for high tide.

A helicopter earlier circled above in order to winch down a pilot to work with the 18 Russian crew.

Former pilot, David Barnicoat told the BBC it looked like “a classic grounding”.

“It sounds as if she dragged anchor and the engines may not have been ready, or she may have had some other problem,” he said.

“Once that anchor breaks from the sea bed and you start dragging, then you have no control whatsoever.”

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One witness, Megan Hocking, said she was “thinking of everybody on the tugs and lifeboat this morning – terrible conditions for a rescue mission”.

Falmouth resident Jess Hughes described the morning weather on the Cornish coast as “extreme” and said it had been “horrendously windy” on Monday night.

“As you come over the crest of the hill there’s just this huge ship where there shouldn’t be,” Ms Hughes said.

Gyllyngvase Beach is a sandy tourist beach about 10 minutes from Falmouth town centre.

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