Hazardous cargo ship being towed to safety

A French Navy helicopter flies over the MSC Napoli off Lizard Point on England's southwest tip on Thursday. A French coast guard tug was towing the British container ship containing explosive materials to safety Friday. Alain Monot / Marine Nationale via AP
/ Source: msnbc.com news services

A French coast guard tug was towing a listing ship containing pesticides to safety Friday.

The container ship's crew of 26 was rescued Thursday after it began taking on water during a storm in the English Channel.

The British-flagged MSC Napoli was on the French side of the Channel when it became holed on the starboard side, forcing the crew to abandon the ship and take to a lifeboat, the British coastguard said.

The crew were winched to safety by Royal Naval helicopters after a two-hour rescue operation and flown to Britain.

“It’s quite a situation out there, severe gale force 9 and a 9 meter swells,” a coastguard spokesman said earlier. “I think the Royal Navy winch guys and pilot are being tested to the limit.”

High winds and rough seas on Thursday disrupted sea and air travel across Northern Europe on Thursday.

The Napoli is carrying 75 containers.

The 16-year-old vessel was last inspected by Britain's Maritime and Coastguard Agency in May 2005 when officials said it met safety standards.