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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russian Ship Hits Rocks

LERWICK, Scotland -- A Russian fish-factory ship ran aground in gale-force winds off the coast of Scotland early Monday, sparking a pollution scare as oil poured into the sea from the vessel's ruptured fuel tanks.


A helicopter and a lifeboat safely evacuated all 155 crew after the ship was torn from its moorings off Lerwick, the capital of the Shetland Islands, in heavy seas and high winds.


The accident revived memories of a disaster in January 1993 when a tanker, the Braer, ran aground at the southern tip of the Shetlands and spewed 85,000 tons of crude oil into the sea.


Coastguards said the 10,000-ton Pionersk was badly damaged and could now break up on the rocks. It was carrying 400 tons of fuel oil and 150 tons of diesel when it ran aground.


By daybreak the storm had calmed and witnesses said black bunker fuel was pouring into the ocean, giving it an oily sheen. "It's that thick stench of diesel from an accident you come to recognize," one resident said.


"Once the level of pollution is determined we will be able to assess what action will be appropriate," said Commander John Bywater of the government-financed Marine Pollution Control Unit which flew an aircraft over the accident.


"The ship itself suffered quite extensive damage below the water line and her engine room is flooded," a coastguard said.


"It's unlikely the ship can be salvaged. It will probably be left to break up on the rocks," he added.


A spate of Russian shipping accidents in Lerwick harbor has caused concern about the safety of fishing ships from Eastern Europe, known as "Klondikers."


A coastguard said there were more than 100 Klondikers around Lerwick.