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Dunkirk, France

Dunkirk (French Dunkerque) is a harbour city in the far northwest of France, in the département of Nord, 10 km from the Belgian border. It has about 71,000 inhabitants (1990 data). It has a ferry connection with Ramsgate[?] and Dover in England.

Dunkirk is the third largest harbour in France, after Le Havre and Marseille. It is also an industrial city, heavily dependent on the steel, food processing[?], oil refining[?], ship building[?] and chemical industries.

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The area was much disputed between Spain, England, the Netherlands and France, until it became definitively French in 1662. During the reign of Louis XIV, a large number of pirates had their base at Dunkirk; Jean Bart was the most famous, known for attacking Dutch ships.

In World War II, heavy fighting took place around Dunkirk during the German invasion (see Battle of Dunkirk) in 1940, but a lull in the action unexpectedly allowed a large number of French and British soldiers to escape to England. Over 300,000 men were evacuated amidst constant bombing (the miracle of Dunkirk, as Churchill called it). During the war, Dunkirk was largely destroyed by bombing.

On December 14, 2002, the Norwegian auto carrier Tricolor collided with the Bahamian-registered Kariba and sank off Dunkirk harbor, causing a hazard to navigation in the English Channel. The following night, a German vessel, the Nicola, hit the wreck and had to be towed free. On January 1, 2003 the Turkish-registered fuel carrier Vicky struck the same wreck, but was freed by a rising tide.

Tourist attractions

  • The Musée Portuaire hosts exhibits images about the history and presence of the port.
  • The Musée des Beaux-Arts has a large collection of Flemish, Italian and French paintings and sculptures.


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