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Published: Thursday February 6, 2014 MYT 12:40:02 AM
Updated: Thursday February 6, 2014 MYT 12:41:12 AM

Cargo ship breaks up off French coast

An aerial view shows waves breaking against a Spanish cargo ship carrying fertiliser, broken in two, off the beach in Anglet on the Atlantic Coast of France, February 5, 2014. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

An aerial view shows waves breaking against a Spanish cargo ship carrying fertiliser, broken in two, off the beach in Anglet on the Atlantic Coast of France, February 5, 2014. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

ANGLET, France (Reuters) - A Spanish cargo ship broke in two on Wednesday after hitting a sea wall off the south-western coast of France in high winds and was leaking some fuel into the water, French officials said.

However the government said initial fears that the ship was loaded with fertilisers were unfounded.

"It was an empty freight ship," Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier told BFM-TV television.

Two helicopters lifted a dozen crew members to safety, said Jean Espilondo, the mayor of Anglet, a town near the French border with Spain that is close to the scene of the incident.

"Everyone was evacuated. They appear to be safe and sound and will be taken to hospital for checks," Espilondo told Reuters.

The Luno had suffered engine problems before the incident, Espilondo said. It was not immediately clear what volume of fertiliser it was carrying.

Patrick Dallennes, a local government prefect, said the ship had between 120-160 cubic metres of fuel in its tanks at the time of the incident.

"For the moment the pollution is limited," he told Reuters.

(Reporting by Claude Cannellas; Writing by Brian Love; Editing by Alison Williams and Mark John)

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