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France Faces Environmental Disaster As Cargo Ship Containing Hazardous Material Burns And Sinks Offshore

On Sunday, March 10th, there was a fire on a cargo ship off the coast of France.

The crew on the Grande America thought they had the fire under control. Until they didn’t. All 27 people on board were rescued that night and on Tuesday, the 214-meter long sank approximately 333 km off the coast of a town called La Rochelle.

The cause of the fire remains unknown.

What is known, however, is that the ship was carrying over 2000 cars and 365 shipping containers — 45 of which contained hazardous materials. “Hazardous materials” is a broad term and the specific contents have not yet been made public. It is known that hydrochloric and sulphuric acid were in the mix.

Most of the acid is thought to have already been burned off. Not exactly good news, but better news for the marine environment.

The disaster also released 2200 tons of oil into the Atlantic Ocean. A slick 10km long and 1km wide has formed.

The French authorities are doing everything they can to manage the spill, but their efforts are subject to weather conditions. Regardless, oil is expected to reach the northwest region of France, Bretagne, as early as this weekend. And by mid next week, the surf hub of Hossegor could be affected.

The exact impact on the coast depends on a few factors, including how well the management efforts go. That said, everyone from oyster farmers to everyday surfers will likely feel the effects of the disaster. And, of course, this is a massive blow to the marine ecosystem.

Reports indicate that France intends to file a criminal complaint about the incident.

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