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Oil Tanker Breaks Up of Spanish Coast - 2002-11-19

A tanker carrying 70,000 tons of oil has split in two off the northwestern coast of Spain, raising fears of a major environmental disaster.

Authorities say the Bahamian-flagged tanker Prestige broke apart early Tuesday about 250 kilometers off Spain's Atlantic coast.

A Dutch salvage firm that has been trying to stabilize the damaged tanker says it is now certain to sink. The only question is whether its oil will remain in its tanks, or will it spill into the sea.

Salvage efforts have been complicated by bad weather and rough seas. Both Spain and Portugal have refused permission for the ship to come into port for repairs, fearing the impact on their fishing and tourism industries.

The Prestige suffered a cracked hull last Wednesday and spilt about four-thousand tons of heavy fuel oil into the sea. Spain suspended fishing in the area, and warned that the oil could badly damage the rugged coastline of Galicia province.