Ghost ship packed with cannibal rats is not likely to crash into UK, say officials

PM’s spokesman laughs off questions about missing Soviet cruise ship as coastguard says there is no evidence it is afloat

Call off the coastline vigils. Stand down the navy. A ghost ship packed with cannibal rats is, it turns out, unlikely to hit the shores of Britain or Ireland any time soon.

True, the salty tale of a runaway ship and its rodent crew made headlines across the world, caused a storm on social media sites and led to questions being asked of the British prime minister on Friday.

But coastal communities in the UK and Ireland can – probably – rest easy.

The saga of the missing cruise ship Lyubov Orlova and its cargo of peckish rats is not complete fantasy. The ship – named after a Russian actor – certainly did break loose this time last year as it was being towed away for scrap and drifted off into the vastness of the Atlantic.

But the idea that it is about to hit land and spill a cargo of nightmare rats appears unfounded.

David Cameron’s official spokesman made it clear that it wasn’t top of the British government’s worry list. “That one hasn’t scuttled across my desk,” was his pun-tastic reply when asked if Cameron had been briefed about the ship.

Pressed over whether the navy would intervene he said: “Gosh, we’re almost in a B-movie script development meeting here.”

The UK coastguard adopted a deadpan approach: “The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has received no sightings of the former Soviet cruise ship Lyubov Orlova since April last year and there is no evidence to suggest it is still afloat.”

The story is not new, having been reported over the last year in publications ranging from the Irish Independent to the New Scientist. What appears to have given it a boost this time was the Sun’s approach.

Under the headline Ship of Ghouls it reported: “A GHOST ship laden with cannibal RATS is sailing for our shores, experts fear – as nobody knows where it is!” Nobody knows where it is, and nobody actually knows if there are rats on board.

And if there are, the RSPCA said they were probably not cannibals. “They are no more inclined to eat one another than humans,” said the senior scientific officer Penny Hawkins.

Richard Fisher, deputy editor of BBC Future, a technology, health and science website, who has written at length on the Lyubov Orlova, said one certain truth had emerged. “There are still vast swaths of our planet’s surface in which it’s surprisingly easy to lose things. Even a ship the size of a large building.” © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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