British authorities blocked public access to beaches in southern England Tuesday to prevent scavengers from looting containers washed ashore from a cargo ship damaged in a recent storm.

A day earlier, up to 1,000 people showed up at Branscombe Beach, ignoring rising tides and gale force winds to sift through the M.S.C. Napoli's waterlogged cargo.

Television footage from the salvage site showed people loading up with valuables, with one truck driving away with a new BMW motorcycle worth nearly $30,000.

A British coast guard officer called the looting despicable. Police said that some of the items had begun appearing on Internet for sale.

Under Britain's maritime law, salvage remains the property of the original owner and whoever finds washed up goods must report them to an office that handles the return of wreckage.

Meanwhile, British salvage experts continue removing hundreds of tons of fuel oil and other hazardous materials from the ship that was deliberately run aground.

Once the fuel is removed, crane-equipped barges will arrive to pluck the ship's 2,400 containers off the deck. More than 100 of the containers have already fallen into the sea.

Britain's Maritime and Coastguard Agency says the clean-up process could take up to a year.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.