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Rescue bid under way after Russian cargo ship runs aground off Cornish beach

Handout photo courtesy of Perfect Properties Cornwall of the Kuzma Minin, a 16,000-tonne Russian cargo ship, run aground off Gyllyngvase Beach in Cornwall. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday December 18, 2018. See PA story SEA Ship. Photo credit should read: Perfect Properties Cornwall/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

By Rod Minchin, Press Association

An operation is under way to rescue sailors stuck on a 16-tonne Russian cargo ship that has run aground off a beach in Cornwall in "extreme" and "horrific" weather.

The massive vessel, believed to be the Kuzma Minin, grounded off Gyllyngvase Beach in Falmouth at about 5.40am on Tuesday.

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

There is no cargo on board the vessel, which has 18 Russian crew on board, and tugs will be attached to the ship to help re-float it when the tide rises.

Witnesses have taken pictures of the boat close to the shore.

The incident comes after the Met Office issued a yellow warning of severe weather with 65mph winds forecast.

Nigel Kitto, who lives locally, praised the work of the lifeboat and helicopter teams working in "horrific" conditions.

"The helicopter and lifeboat have been going in and out and it's incredible to see - the skill of the helicopter pilot," he said.

"The helicopter is going sideways here against the wind and struggling a bit.

"It's amazing to watch but there are people on board so fingers crossed that everyone gets back to shore OK."

The efforts to rescue sailors from the beached tanker come on the eve of the 37th anniversary of the Penlee lifeboat disaster.

The 1981 tragedy, which occurred in nearby Penzance, claimed the lives of 16 people in similar circumstances.

"There are dangerous rocks down there and this brings up memories for everyone, I imagine," Mr Kitto added.

Falmouth resident Jess Hughes described this morning's weather on the Cornish coast as "extreme".

"As you come over the crest of the hill there's just this huge ship where there shouldn't be," she told the Press Association.

"Last night it was horrendously windy and now there's gravel up by the road, so it was a good high tide," she added.

An HM Coastguard spokeswoman said in a statement: "HM Coastguard is currently co-ordinating assistance to a 180-metre bulk carrier which dragged her anchor and grounded on the western side of the port entrance between Swanpool and Gyllyngvase beaches at around 5.40am.

"The vessel has 18 Russian crew on board. There is no cargo on board. She currently has a list of five degrees but there is no report of any pollution.

"Tugs are on their way to the vessel and a lifeboat is standing by at the scene. The Falmouth Coastguard Rescue Team have cordoned off an area around the ship.

"Tugs will be attached to the vessel and as the tide rises, the plan is to re-float the vessel."