Listing freighter now under tow, bound for Bilbao

AP

Rescuers successfully diverted a cargo ship threatening to run aground in southwestern France after five days adrift, and started towing it Tuesday toward the Spanish port of Bilbao.

Broadcast images showed the 164-meter (538-foot) Modern Express listing dramatically as it was towed by another ship via a cable on Monday afternoon.

The maritime authority for France’s Atlantic Coast said in a statement later that the towing operation was successful and the ship was towed far enough from the coast to avoid running aground. At its closest point, the ship had been 42 km (26 miles) from the shore.

Spanish authorities agreed to harbor the ship in Bilbao, where it’s expected to arrive Wednesday morning, according to the French statement.

The crew on the Panama-registered vessel was evacuated after issuing a distress call last week. The ship is carrying 3,600 tons of wood and equipment.

High winds and 6-meter (20-foot) waves made weekend rescue attempts impossible.