16-tonne Russian ship Kuzma Minin became stranded off Falmouth, Cornwall in the early hours .

An operation is under way to rescue sailors stranded on a Russian cargo ship that ran aground close to a UK beach as it was pounded by large waves, 55mph winds and heavy rain.

The 16-tonne ship, called the Kuzma Minin, became stranded less than 100ft off Gyllyngvase Beach in Falmouth, Cornwall, in “extreme” and “horrific” weather conditions in the early hours of Tuesday.

A major incident has been declared and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has warned that it will involve a very “dangerous” rescue where “a lot could go wrong”.

Tugs are trying to refloat the bulk carrier, which has 18 Russian crew and no cargo on board, after it dragged its anchor and ran aground in darkness just before 6am.

A pilot was airlifted on board to assist the Russian crew after a pilot boat pulled up alongside the vessel. Waves crashed over its deck as the conditions deteriorated, Cornwall Live reported.

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