Cigarette packets wash up on Dorset's Chesil Beach

Washed-up cigarettes on Chesil Beach Image copyright Laurence Herdman
Image caption HM Revenue and Customs said the cigarettes were part of a "large legitimate commercial consignment"

Thousands of packets of cigarettes have washed up on Chesil Beach in Dorset.

They began appearing before midday and are thought to come from containers which fell off a cargo ship in the Bay of Biscay during last week's storms.

Dorset Police are guarding the two-mile stretch covered by the cigarettes with the UK Border Agency.

On Monday police and coastguards removed about 11 million cigarettes washed up in a container at Axmouth beach in Devon.

A trail of packets each containing 200 cigarettes, along with individual packets and capsules of what appears to contain tobacco is covering a two-mile stretch of Chesil Beach, from Chesil Cove on Portland to the Ferry Bridge on Portland Beach Road.

Dorset Police officers and community safety officers have been at the scene since the morning to deter people from scavenging.

Ch Insp Dean O'Conner said the cargo had been "badly damaged" and was "beyond use".

"Our main fear is for the safety of the public - landslips over the past few weeks remain a real risk and people should not put themselves at increased risk," he added.

"Furthermore, the washed up cargo remains the property of the cargo owners."

'White line of cancer'

Bob Gaiger, Dorset spokesman for HM Revenue and Customs, said the cigarettes were part of a "large legitimate commercial consignment" being shipped from Rotterdam to Sri Lanka.

Portland Coastguards confirmed its teams were also assisting at the scene.

Portland Naturalist ‏@SeanFoote1 tweeted: "Also just noticed that the strandline of Chesil Beach is one long white line of heart disease and cancer. 'Scavengers' already turning up."

The beach was already covered in large amounts of storm debris and dead sea birds, which were being cleared by volunteers.

Lumps of "foul smelling" substance, thought to be vegetable or palm oil have also washed ashore.

The cargo ship shed about 500 containers but most of them are thought to have sunk in French waters, 75 miles south west of Land's End.

Coastguards have spotted three containers from the same ship, one of which came ashore in Devon. The other two are mid-Channel and are being monitored by coastguards.

All wreck material found in the UK has to be reported to the MCA's Receiver of Wreck.

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