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EDITIONS
 Wednesday, 20 November, 2002, 17:56 GMT
Press condemns tanker disaster
The Prestige sinks
Deemed unsuitable by Norway's state oil company
While Spain's leading newspapers are at one in calling the sinking of the Prestige a catastrophe which never should have happened, a leading daily in Portugal calls Madrid to account over the disaster.

The catastrophe raises serious doubts about the actions of the Spanish authorities

Portugal's Diario de Noticias

A commentary in Lisbon's Diario de Noticias expresses fears that the Portuguese coast could be at risk because of the way the Spanish authorities have handled the crisis.

The daily says the "black tide" could pose a serious threat to the Portuguese coastline and suggests Spain could have taken alternative measures to ensure it did not drift south.

"The environmental catastrophe which is afflicting Galicia raises serious doubts about the actions of the Spanish authorities."

Madrid's goodwill towards Portugal, says Diario, "is not enough to outweigh its own interests", and Spain should be called to account.

Disasters like the Prestige reveal the powerlessness of the European authorities

El Pais

Another leading Portuguese daily, Publico speaks of an "ecological disaster".

In Spain itself, an editorial in El Pais argues that "disasters like the Prestige... reveal the powerlessness of the European authorities to stop the strategies used by the oil companies and ship owners to get round the rules on safety".

An opinion poll in El Pais has more than 90% of respondents calling for the rules governing maritime transport to be made as strict as those applicable to airlines.

Dramatic pictures of the Prestige fill the front pages of all the Madrid dailies.

'Time bomb'

"Time bomb under the sea" is the headline in ABC, while La Razon talks of "Ecological alarm as the Prestige sinks".

In Barcelona, La Vanguardia says that the sinking of the Prestige "mainly affects Galicia, but the whole of the European Union should also feel involved".

"The EU directives on maritime transport must be quickly introduced into domestic legal systems so ships like the Prestige are subjected to the strictest possible preventative controls," it urges.

"This is not a question of the loss of a few tonnes of barnacles, but of the collective security of the seas; and today security is an unshakable priority."

'Evil'

El Periodico De Catalunya, another Barcelona daily, notes that faced with the leakage of fuel, "the decision was taken to tow the boat out to the deep blue yonder, following the well-known practice of cleaners who use their brooms to brush dust under the carpet".

The unfair picture of the Civil Guard and the captain reassured us all. The evil had a face and was under arrest

El Periodico De Catalunya

"The Prestige was evil, and evil must be moved as far away as possible. Out of sight, out of mind... Was the aim to share the risk with Portugal, as if the environment were a national and not a planetary asset?"

El Periodico accuses the authorities of making the captain a scapegoat. "We saw the captain of the Prestige between civil guardsmen, under arrest after fighting the sea for hours and hours amid the distress of his broken boat.

"But the unfair picture of the Civil Guard and the captain reassured us all. The evil had a face and was under arrest. And on top of that, they were going to Gibraltar. Bingo."

Several dailies report the government in Madrid was planning to use F-18 military planes to bomb the stricken tanker in the hope of both setting ablaze the oil and sending the ship to the bottom.

Its subsequent sinking scuppered the plan.

El Mundo quotes a top official of the Norwegian state oil company Statoil as saying it registered the Prestige as "unsuitable" because of its age and because it lacked a double hull.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

Spain's coast and maritime fauna are threatened by the oil spill from the break-up of the Prestige

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