Police guarding cigarette haul

Devon and Cornwall Police are guarding the haul of cigarettes at Axmouth. Credit: Beer Coastguard Rescue Team

Police in Devon have seized the contents of a huge shipping container which has washed ashore on a beach.

The huge container, which was spotted at Axmouth, near Seaton, is believed to be carrying around 14 tonnes of cigarettes.

It is thought to be one of many which were lost from a Maersk cargo ship as it crossed the northern stretch of the Bay of Biscay in stormy conditions last Friday.

Police and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) have issued a stern warning to treasure hunters planning to benefit from the haul.

The Beer Coastguard Rescue Team, police and council officials are on scene at Axmouth beach. Credit: Beer Coastguard Rescue Team

The MCA was informed that a number of containers were lost from a Maersk cargo ship on February 14.

Most of the containers were empty and are believed to have sunk approximately 75 nautical miles south-west of Lands End in French waters.

The MCA's aerial surveillance aircraft has been searching UK water, and ships passing through the English Channel have been warned and asked to report any sightings.