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Posted by portugalpress on March 09, 2018

Concerns heightened last night as the crew of the beached cargo ship, stuck on a sandbank in the Tejo river outside Lisbon since Tuesday, were finally evacuated.

The reason for the extraordinarily complex operation mounted by the Air Force followed “aggravating weather conditions”, forecast to bring waves of ever-increasing height over the weekend.

Right now, waves are between 4-6 metres, say reports, and the ship is “still in one piece”.

But with waves likely to reach peaks of up to 14 metres on Sunday, the situation is fraught.

Conditions are “much too unstable” to mount a towing operation to pull the ship off the sandbank, and thus for now it is being left as authorities can simply watch and wait.

The Spanish “Betanzos” is 118 metres long. It has a cargo of sand which should be en-route to Casablanca (Morocco) to “make glass”, reports Correio da Manhã.

The problem however is the fuel in the ship’s tanks. There is thought to be 160,000 tons of it and if the sea does its worst and starts breaking the hull, the fuel could start leaking.

Maritime authority commander Pereira da Fonseca has assured reporters that: “At this moment, the ship is integral and there is no risk of pollution”.

The likelihood that this could change has seen logistical support already brought in, and personnel ‘standing by’.

“Monitoring of the ship will be constant”, he stressed.

Meantime, the evacuation yesterday of 14 crewmembers, two-by-two, by Air Force helicopter was praised by the Spaniards as they finally made it to dry land.

Say reports, it was “a spectacular mission” by a helicopter attached to 751 squadron commanded by Major Gil Conde.

As soon as weather conditions have improved, the idea is for the crew to return to the ship to help the tug that has already arrived from Gibraltar to try and pull the Betanzos off its sandbank, at a spot known as Bugio.

The Betanzos became stuck after “a total electrical failure” rendered it adrift.