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Second Wave of Oil Spill to Hit Spanish Coast - 2002-12-01

Another wave of oil slicks from a sunken tanker is headed toward the northwest coast of Spain. Stormy weather is making clean-up operations extremely difficult.

Spanish officials and hundreds of volunteers are desperately working to limit the damage from an estimated 10,000 tons of fuel oil floating off the northwestern Spanish region of Galicia.

The oil comes from the tanker Prestige, which split in two and sank on November 19, after being towed some 250 kilometers offshore. The week before, the vessel had let loose an estimated 6,000 tons of oil when its hull cracked in a storm, blackening more than 400 kilometers of coastline and bringing the fishing industry in the region to a standstill.

Now another wave of oil slicks is threatening the picturesque Galician coastline, indented by a number of inlets rich in fishing resources. Known as the Coast of Death, the threatened area runs 250 kilometers between La Coruna in the north and Cape Finisterre in the south.

Pushed on by stormy weather, the first patches of oil washed ashore on Sunday. The Spanish deputy prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, who heads an emergency ministerial committee dealing with the crisis, said the biggest patch was still some distance from the coastline.

A fleet of eight specialized, anti-pollution vessels from various European countries is standing by to continue their clean-up operation as weather permits. So far they have sucked up an estimated 5,000 tons of oil.

Meanwhile, some 1,800 volunteers and military personnel have cleaned up some 2.5 tons from the first wave of oil pollution. More than 11 kilometers of oil slick barriers have been set in place to try to protect inlets and harbors. Another 28 kilometers of barriers are waiting to be put in place.

Mr. Rajoy also confirmed that the Spanish navy on Saturday forced an oil tanker of construction similar to the Prestige out of Spanish territorial waters. Reacting to the disaster brought about by the oil spill, France and Spain last week banned all single-hulled tankers more than 15 years old from sailing within 200 kilometers of their coastlines.