A coastal resort and a national park are in peril if salvage workers aren't able to harness a listing cargo ship poised to crash into France within the next 48 hours. Since the 540-foot Modern Express began tilting Tuesday off the coast of Spain, rescue efforts have been dogged by bad weather and turbulent seas, RFI reports. In fact, rescuers can only approach the ship, whose 22 crew members were pulled to safety Tuesday, by helicopter, the Washington Post reports. "We will do everything within our power to succeed," Emmanuel De Oliveira, with France's Atlantic Maritime Prefecture, says of what the Post is calling Monday's "Hail Mary salvage maneuver." "If this does not succeed, the Modern Express will run aground on the sandy coast."
Per RFI, the Modern Express was traveling from Gabon to Le Havre, France, when it began leaning heavily to one side. A salvage team tried to tow it Saturday, but the line snapped, a local paper reports, per SeaNews Turkey. Harsh conditions stalled Sunday's rescue efforts, but had calmed enough Monday for a new attempt. Although the ship's cargo of 3,600 tons of timber and construction equipment isn't expected to have more than a "limited" environmental impact if it barrels into the Landes region near the Biarritz resort, its 300 tons of diesel fuel have officials worried, per the Post. But that amount is relatively small—the Post notes the Exxon Valdez dumped 35,000 tons of fuel—and officials have an emergency plan to mitigate spillage. "We will accompany the vessel to the end," De Oliveira says. (Mechanical failure doomed the El Faro.)