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Crew rescued from stricken ship

An operation to refloat a stricken cargo ship which ran aground in rough seas, sparking the rescue of seven crew members, is due to begin.

Salvage and counter pollution experts will on Wednesday morning begin assessing the damage to the 82-metre long vessel after it hit rocks near Colwyn Bay in North Wales.

The Marine and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said the cargo ship was in one piece following Tuesday's incident, but there are growing concerns that it could begin to leak some of the 40,000 litres of fuel it is carrying.

Two lifeboats and a Royal Navy and RAF helicopter were involved in the dramatic rescue of the seven Polish crew members after their vessel got into difficulties as the Welsh coast was battered by Gale Force Nine winds and five metre swells.

Five of the seamen were rescued by a Royal Navy Sea King rescue helicopter scrambled from RNAS Prestwick.

However the aircraft developed a problem with its winch wire, forcing rescue co-ordinators to send out a second helicopter from RAF Leconfield to collect the remaining two crew members.

An MCA spokeswoman said: "At 8.15pm last night Liverpool Coastguard received a distress call from the cargo ship 'Carrier' telling them they had run aground at Raynes Jetty, Llanddulas.

"A strong gale was blowing and a five metre swell was reported. Because of the location of the grounding Holyhead Coastguard coordinated the rescue. All seven of the Polish crew were taken uninjured from the ship by two rescue helicopters. The first from RNAS Prestwick, the second from RAF Leconfield."

The Welsh Government said it was "closely monitoring" the situation and being kept fully informed of developments.

The MCA said the reason for the ship running aground was not yet clear. "Salvage and counter pollution experts will be on site in the morning," added the spokeswoman.