The crew of a cargo ship were plucked to safety as their 35,000 tonne vessel snapped in half after smashing against rocks in the Strait of Gilbraltar.
The Liberian-registered Fedra had been dragging her anchor in a force 8 gale on Friday afternoon.
Despite earlier efforts of two tug boats to hold the ship clear of land its anchor broke and the stern of the vessel smashed against rocks at Europa Point - Europe's most southerly spot.
Defying extreme winds, a Spanish maritime rescue helicopter airlifted five men from the bow of the 24-year old bulk carrier Fedra as it lay pinned by pounding waves at the base of cliffs in Gilbraltar.
But the savage weather played havoc with the helicopter’s engine, forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing with men still left stranded on deck, according to maritime and transport news portal Lloyd's List.
In small groups throughout the night, Gibraltarian rescuers hauled up wet, shivering and terrified crew members.
At one point, with 11 men still on board, the operation had to be suspended as the storm intensified.
'We thought we were going to lose them,' one exhausted rescuer told Lloyd's List.
'But at around 7am, we had a small weather window.
'We knew this was the only chance they had.'
By mid Saturday morning the Fedra had been ripped apart by the sea, torn in two close to the crew's accommodation quarters.
Both sections of the ship remain trapped against the cliffs, heaving and hammering violently in the pitching seas.
The men, mostly Filipino sailors, were treated in hospital but were later released and taken to a local hotel.
The Fedra is 24 years old and is owned by Fedra Navigation SA.