THOUSANDS of packets of cigarettes have washed up at West Bexington.

Police and coastguard officers are on scene at the Chesil Beach Centre monitoring the situation which has seen the cigarettes washed up along the Chesil Beach.

Border Agency workers working in conjunction with HM Revenue and Customs were tasked to walk the stretch of beach from West Bexington to Burton Bradstock gathering the cellophane-wrapped packets into sacks.

The cigarettes are part of the cargo of cigarettes from a beached shipping container which washed up at Axmouth, Devon.

The Maritime Coastguard Agency had been informed that containers were lost from the ship as it crossed the Bay of Biscay in stormy conditions.

A bystander said: “There are thousands of packets washed up all along the beach. It is an amazing sight and the coastguards are here to oversee the collection.”

Thousands of packets have already been recovered from beaches in Devon.

Ships passing through the English Channel have been warned to report any sightings of loose containers. Members of the public who spot any beached containers are asked to call the coastguard – although most are believed to be empty and have sunk 75 miles off Land’s End.

Simon Porter, MCA counter pollution and salvage officer, said: “We have been carrying out extensive searches over the last four days and spotted three containers, one of which has since come ashore and the other two are mid-Channel.

“We are working with Maersk to ensure they recover their containers.”

West Bay and Lyme Regis coastguards joined the Beer Coastguard Rescue Team, police and council officials at Axmouth beach and the container has been cordoned off.