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The BBC's Stephen Jessel
"The TotalFina oil comapny was bitterly criticised for refusing to accept responsibility for the tanker"
 real 28k

Friday, 31 December, 1999, 02:38 GMT
Oil firm offers clean-up cash

Volunteers help in the clear-up operation Volunteers help in the clear-up operation


Oil company TotalFina has offered to pay about $6m towards cleaning-up pollution after one of its chartered tankers sank off the coast of France.

The offer comes as France faces one of its worst ecological disasters.

Tonnes of oil has washed up on its Atlantic shores faster than volunteers can shovel it off.

About 20,000 sea birds are reported to have been affected by the oil slick, released when the Maltese-registered tanker Erika broke up 70km (45 miles) south of Finistere on 12 December.

TotalFina, a French firm, says the funds will be mainly used to buy equipment for the clean-up. It says a further $60m will be made available to fund the operation to pump the remaining oil from the sunken vessel.

Funding shortfall

The news follows an announcement by French Environment Minister Dominique Voynet criticising TotalFina and insisting that money put up by the oil industry compensation fund, Fipol, was not enough.

A spokesman for the ministry said: "The minister has reminded TotalFina chairman Thierry Desmarest of ... the moral obligation of the oil group to take on the costs from the catastrophe.

"It is not conceivable that these are charged to the state or the victims."

Earlier this week TotalFina's chairman said he was "truly sorry" for the incident but insisted that responsibility lies with the ship's Italian owners.

The French Government has pledged around $6m of its own money to help locals along the affected parts of the coastline, mostly in Brittany and Vendee

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See also:
28 Dec 99 |  Europe
Jospin pledges action on oil tankers
28 Dec 99 |  UK
Oil birds arrive in UK
26 Dec 99 |  Europe
Oil spill takes its toll
17 Dec 99 |  Europe
Clean-up crews battle 'thick' oil slick

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