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Tuesday, 3 December, 2002, 05:58 GMT
Sunken tanker not leaking
A volunteer stands on an oil covered beach
The slick has ruined the local fishing industry
An initial survey of the sunken oil tanker whose cargo has devastated much of the north-west coast of Spain has revealed no fresh leaks of fuel.

The survey was carried out by a mini submarine, which will continue to scour the site of the wreck, which is at a depth of more than three kilometres (two miles), for the next week.

Enlarge image
Enlarge image

Route to disaster
On Monday, King Juan Carlos of Spain visited one of the many beaches badly hit by a second oil slick which was released when the tanker, the Prestige, sank.

He spoke to volunteers involved in the clean-up operation and visited a number of fishing villages badly affected by the oil spill.

The Spanish Government has been criticised for not acting quickly enough to deal with the crisis, which is now affecting around 550 km (880 miles) of coastline.

Spanish officials said the French Nautile submarine had succeeded in locating the bow of the tanker, submerged in 3,500 metres (11,000 feet) of water, on its first dive.

"The first indication is that no fuel oil is emerging from the wreck of the ship, but we will not be able to be sure until tomorrow or the day after," said Spain's Deputy Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who is in charge of clean-up operations.


He went down and got his feet dirty - the only way to resolve a problem is to be in the middle of it

Local resident, speaking of King Juan Carlos

The Prestige began leaking oil on 13 November after being damaged in a storm and finally broke in two and sank six days later.

About 60,000 tons of oil are thought to be still inside the vessel, which spilled up to 20,000 tons into the sea before sinking.

There were hopes the remaining oil would solidify in the freezing temperatures, but in recent days a new slick has been sighted over the spot where the ship went down.

Royal reception

The government has banned fishing and shellfish harvesting - the main economic activity in Galicia - along several hundred kilometres of coastline.

Fisherman create floats to keep off oil
Attempts to stave off the oil have not worked

An estimated 15,000 birds have died or been injured by the oil, according to Enrique Diaz of the environmental group SEO BirdLife.

Locals greeted the king with applause only a day after nearly 200,000 people turned out in the Galician capital Santiago de Compostela to condemn what they described as inadequate coastal protection.

"We're very grateful that he came to see the problem first hand," said Daniel Castro, 46.

"He went down and got his feet dirty. The only way to resolve a problem is to be in the middle of it."

Infographic: Nautile

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Stephen Sackur
"Many of these poisoned creatures will not survive"
Jeff Ross, Sefton Supporter oil recovery ship
"The weather out here is not really conducive to picking up oil"
Spain's coast and maritime fauna are threatened by the oil spill from the break-up of the Prestige

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See also:

01 Dec 02 | Europe
25 Nov 02 | Europe
19 Nov 02 | Science/Nature
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