There are fears for the tourist beaches in Devon after a tugboat carrying 200 tonnes of fuel crashed near the coastline on Sunday night.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency confirmed that eight crew members were airlifted to safety on Sunday night after the boat, Christos 22, was hit by a vessel it was towing off the coast of Torbay.
Two RNLI lifeboats sent to the scene were assisted by two Royal Naval vessels, the HMS Lancaster and the HMS Severn.
The Christos 22, which was travelling from Germany to Turkey, had pulled into the coastline in order to check a problem at about 7pm when it was hit and began taking on water rapidly.
According to the BBC, a gash nearly 40cm long was opened up.
The Christos sent a Mayday call, which was picked up by Brixham coastguards who have been co-ordinating the rescue.
The Moto Vessel Emsstrom, the decommissioned vessel being towed by the tug, became separated but has now been secured.
A salvage operation to prevent the boat from sinking and leaking its 200 tonnes of diesel onto the nearby beaches in Devon is underway.
A Brixham Coastguard spokesman told ITV News: "The problem is this is happening quite close to shore and if this boat sinks there could be a big pollution problem.
"It would contaminate the local beaches - all this part of the coast is a holiday coastline. It is also a fishing area and would impact on the local birds and wildlife."
According to lbc.co.uk, he added that if the boat cannot be saved, the Royal Navy ships will instead begin the "difficult" task of pumping diesel out of the water.
Two tugs, one from Brixham and one from Portland, are pumping water off the stricken boat.
In a statement, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: "RNLI and Royal Navy vessels have now left the scene. Another tug has started salvage operations and is currently pumping water from the stricken tug.
"The water level is continuing to fall and now awaiting divers to start repairs. Two more tugs are heading from Falmouth to assist."
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