A CARGO ship has crashed off the coast of south-western France and the 12 Spanish members of the crew have been evacuated.
The Luno, a Spanish container ferry, literally broke in half when it collided with a pier in the port of Bayonne, near Biarritz and close to Spain's Basque Country border.
It was not loaded at the time, meaning it was lighter than usual and the gale-force winds and torrential rain off the north coast of Spain battered it about, thrusting it into the pier when captain Lunel Delort tried to dock.
Winds in the Bay of Biscay, from Brittany in north-western France down to Galicia in north-western Spain have reached nearly 100 miles per hour (160 km/h), making it difficult for rescue boats and helicopters to travel to the scene of incidents.
In the end, the 12 occupants of the ship were airlifted via a French military helicopter to dry land, says the mayor of the nearby town of Anglet, Jean Espilondo.
One of the crew suffered a broken nose, but by some miracle none of them sustained life-threatening injuries.
Captain Delort said they were considering remaining on what was left of the ship until the tides calmed down and then aim for dry land on lifeboats.
The Luno left the port of Pasaia, north of San Sebastián in the Basque Country at 19.30hrs on Tuesday, having been anchored there for a month, and crashed in Bayonne at 13.35hrs.