An article inspired by the environmental disaster that occured when The Napoli ran aground on Branscombe Beach in the South West of England. It was published in the New Internationalist in February 2007.
There was, briefly, something for everybody on Branscombe Beach. The Napoli, a container-ship out of Antwerp bound for Portugal and South Africa, had been crippled by a storm then deliberately run aground here, on the south-west coast of England, to prevent its sinking. A hundred containers were lost overboard and forty or so washed up on local beaches.
For several days BMW brake-pads rolled in the surf. The waves tinkled with fragments of sheet-metal. Packaging, sportswear, cosmetics, car-parts, maxi-packs of nappies, Bibles in many languages, lay strewn along the tide-line.
All this entitled this corner of the South West to more attention in a few days than it generally receives in a decade. In phone-ins on local radio stations pensioners berated the ‘organized gangs’ and other ‘non-Devon people’ who were responsible for the plundering, looting etc. A friend of mine bounced out of bed at daybreak to photograph the dozens of heart-shaped tins of chocolates that washed up, all coated in tar, 30 miles along the coast. Volunteers – presumably ‘strangers’ – helping with the clean-up offered them to each other with mock-Valentine’s Day sentiment.
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