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Friday, 15 November, 2002, 14:47 GMT
Stricken tanker towed out to sea
The Prestige of the western Finistere Cape, north-western Spain.
Spanish officials fear the vessel will sink
A tanker laden with millions of tonnes of fuel oil which got into trouble off north-west Spain has been escorted away from the coast.

By dawn on Friday, the Prestige had been towed about 95 kilometres (60 miles) from Spain's Atlantic coastline after it was righted and its engines restarted.


We're going to try get it out at least 120 miles (190 kms) from Spain. Where it goes after that is not our responsibility

Spanish official spokesman in La Coruna

According to revised estimates by the Spanish authorities on Friday, the vessel has spilled about 1,500 tonnes of oil leaving a long slick near a rich fishing area.

The Bahamas-flagged vessel, which had sailed from the Baltic port of Ventspils, started listing and leaking oil during a violent storm on Wednesday.

The tanker, carrying 77,000 tonnes of oil, drifted to within 10 km (six miles) of land and most of its crew were taken off by helicopter.

Fighting the slick

Spain has underlined its determination to ensure that the vessel is moved at least 190 kilometres (120 miles) from the coast and does not want it to enter a Spanish port.

"Where it goes after that is not our responsibility", an interior ministry spokesman in La Coruna told the Associated Press.

map
The authorities are focusing efforts on the oil spilt off the coast.

According to the Spanish development ministry, the oil slick has split into two sections, the nearest of which is about eight km (five miles) from the coast. One section of the slick is 10 kilometres long and the other eight km long.

Spanish authorities have set up 7,800 metres of floating barriers to keep the oil away from land and deployed 14 oil-sucking skimmers and other equipment, the ministry said.

The 26-year old vessel was reportedly bound for the British dependent territory of Gibraltar, although this has been denied by the authorities there.

Crew members from the Prestige tanker on board a rescue helicopter
Most of the crew abandoned the tanker
Correspondents say the vessel was considered to be vulnerable as its hull has no outer casing to provide extra protection against leakage.

Spain alleges that the Prestige regularly plied the route between Latvia and Gibraltar, neither of which, it said, belonged to the Paris Memorandum of Understanding, a body responsible for ship inspections.

Speaking in Brussels, Spain's Secretary of State for European Affairs Ramon de Miguel accused Britain of failing to ensure Gibraltar complied with EU environmental rules and called on the European Commission to ensure they were enforced.

See also:

15 Nov 02 | Science/Nature
14 Oct 02 | Scotland
11 Oct 02 | England
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