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Cargo ship hits Channel wreck

The Tricolor lies on its side in the English Channel
The Tricolor lies on its side in the English Channel

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DOVER, England (CNN) -- A cargo ship has run into the sunken Tricolor, the vessel that sank in the English Channel in one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

The Nicola, a 3,000 tonne ship registered in the Dutch Antilles, struck the Norwegian vessel, which sank off Dunkirk on Saturday after a collision with another vessel in thick fog.

The Nicola was stuck on top of The Tricola for several hours before being pulled free by two tugboats on Monday morning, .

A French Maritime Authority spokesman said The Nicola was not believed to have suffered serious damage. It is currently anchored nearby.

The Tricolor, a Norwegian-registered car carrier, was carrying 30 million ($47.7m) worth of luxury cars when it sank in the English Channel in the early hours of Saturday following a collision with another vessel in fog.

Although all of its crew escaped unharmed, the tanker -- and its cargo of almost 3,000 BMWs, Volvos and Saabs -- lay just below the surface.

A team of eight and a vessel from salvage company Smit Tak are in position about 20 miles east of the Kent coast to check the Tricolor for oil leaks.

High winds and strong sea currents prevented divers from going down to the wreck to assess damage on Sunday.

The 95 metre-long Nicola, which was built two years ago and had seven people on board, hit the Tricolor at about 2 a.m. as it travelled from La Coruna in northern Spain to Rotterdam. It is not known what the ship is carrying.

The damage to the Kariba illustrates the force of the collision
The damage to the Kariba illustrates the force of the collision

French coastguards are dealing with the Tricolor as it is lying on its side in French waters.

The French warship Geranium, sent from Cherbourg, was alongside the Tricolor to alert other ships to the wreck. A single buoy marked the spot.

When weather improves, three or four buoys will be placed around the wreck.

The Tricolor was carrying the cars from Zeebrugge, in Belgium, to Southampton, England.

In a statement, Per Ronnevig, spokesman for shipping firm Wilhelmsen Lines, which owned the carrier, said as well as the cars, the Tricolor was also transporting 77 other cargo units, which mainly consisted of tractors and crane parts.

The vessel was estimated to be worth 25.1 million ($39.9).

Ronnevig said the the cargo would probably have to be written off.

He said: "I think we must consider it lost. She probably capsized when she went down. It means that all the cars are probably lying in pieces down there."

The Tricolor sank after colliding with the container ship Kariba, which was said to be severely damaged.

The 175-metre, 20,829-ton cargo vessel Kariba was carrying containers and was on its way from Antwerp, in Belgium, to Le Havre, in France.

After the incident it limped back to Antwerp for damage inspection.

Investigators are due to question the crew of both vessels.

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