Three French fishing trawlers sought refuge in Dartmouth harbour this week as severe weather conditions battered the south coast, but the damage to this listing fishing vessel proved to be too much for its hull to cope with.

Five crew members were successfully rescued from Sagittaire in the early hours of Thursday morning by RNLI Dart, while a further five were helped off Saint Christophe by the local Fire Service.

Saint Christophe failed to right itself on the low spring tide at 1233 yesterday, and the Dart Harbour and Navigation Authority has issued a notice to mariners to avoid the area.

The listing fishing vessel is carrying more than 10,000 litres of diesel, making it a serious pollution risk, although Dart Harbour Authority vessel, Hercules, has set up a protective boom around the stricken trawler, while efforts are made to pump out the fuel.

In a statement the Dart harbourmaster confirmed: “All five of the crew (all French nationals) are safe and unhurt.” By 0900 this morning the listing fishing vessel was completely submerged and an official investigation into the cause had begun.