THE fierce storms that have battered Dorset's coastline this winter have washed up hundreds of packets of cigarettes.

Most of the packets, as well as cans of Iams cat food, are littering the shore at Hengistbury Head, with walkers discovering even more at intervals along the pebbled beach.

The cigarettes are covered with Japanese writing.

One man, who alerted the Daily Echo to the beached shipment, said: “I collected about 50 packets, most of them sodden but not all.”

He added: “I enjoyed a free smoke this afternoon.”

It is believed the cigarettes are part of a cargo that washed up on Chesil Beach late last month.

Thousands of packets, part of a cargo from a beached shipping container which washed up at Axmouth, Devon, were found.

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

A spokesperson from the organisation said they would be working with Dorset Police, the Coastguard and local authorities to collect and secure the cigarettes, and members of the public were advised not to visit the coast in the hope of picking up some free packets.

Around 11 million cigarettes are believed to have been in the shipment.