Container with 11 MILLION cigarettes washes up on British beach
TREASURE hunters have been warned to stay away from a Devon beach after a shipping container washed up - filled with 11 million cigarettes.The 40 foot long box - which contains some 14 tonnes of fags - was just one of 517 washed off a cargo ship during storms earlier this month.
Police are currently patrolling the area to prevent people from trying to pocket a crafty box of soggy cigarettes and have warned they will prosecute.
The Danish container is bobbing in shallow water at Seaton, Devon, and could be the first of many to wash up on the Lyme Bay coast.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency is arranging recovery of the Maersk container which landed early this morning but have been delayed by the high tide.
A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall Police said: "At the moment the container is still in shallow water and is floating, so is not accessible.
"It was reported by a member of the public at 8.10am this morning and officers are on scene to make sure no one puts themselves at risk to recover anything.
"The contents belong initially to the original owner of the container, and then to the official Receiver of Wrecks, so anyone taking anything that washes ashore, even one packet of cigarettes, is effectively committing theft and will be prosecuted.
"So the message to anyone intending to go down there looking for free fags is don't bother."
It is estimated the shipping container could have contained as many as 11 MILLION cigarettes.
If full, the 40ft shipping container could have had 55,511 cartons of cigarettes, meaning there could be 11,102,200 cigarettes floating just feet from the beach.
The ship was heading from Rotterdam to Sri Lanka when it hit storms in the Bay of Biscay on Valentines Day.
Hundreds of containers fell into the water when six compartments of the ship tilted over after winds forced the ship to roll up to 40 degrees.
None of the crew was injured but it is reported to be the biggest loss of containers that Maersk has ever suffered.
Many of the containers have probably already sunk or made their way to France.
The police and the MCA were expecting the box to wash up but did not know where on the coast it would arrive.