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More Tanker Oil Hits Shore

Fishing ban is extended along Spanish coast in aftermath of spill. Officials still hope heavy fuel will solidify on the cold ocean floor.

November 22, 2002|From Associated Press

NOIA, Spain — Waves of black sludge from a major oil spill washed ashore amid heavy winds and driving rain Thursday, tarring new stretches of northwestern Spain's scenic coastline and further threatening the region's multimillion-dollar fishing industry.

The regional government extended a ban on fishing and shellfish harvesting declared Saturday, when heavy fuel oil from the tanker Prestige first reached land. The ban now covers more than 186 miles of Galician coastline from El Ferrol south to Ribeiro.

More than 10,000 tons of fuel oil leaked from the Bahamian-flagged tanker in several spills starting Nov. 13, when its hull cracked in a storm.

The ship broke in half and sank Tuesday about 150 miles off Cape Finisterre, carrying most of its 77,000-ton cargo to the ocean floor.

Officials and environmentalists remained hopeful the oil that sank with the Prestige would solidify in the frigid cold and high pressure more than two miles down on the ocean floor.

No plans have been announced to try to recover the oil, valued at $10 million.

On Thursday, fishermen harvested mussels, oysters and other commercially valuable shellfish ahead of schedule from estuary beds that risked contamination.

Authorities deployed more oil-blocking barriers outside ports and rivers open to the ocean. Soldiers in protective gear joined environmentalists and volunteers in shoveling toxic oil from beaches.

Fishing and canning is a major industry here, generating about $330 million a year.

Spain's environmental minister has estimated economic damage and cleanup costs at $42 million so far.

The miles of oil barriers deployed in recent days were ineffective against rough Atlantic seas, and the government lacks other resources -- such as oil-skimming ships -- to control the spill effectively. Neighboring countries were sending cleanup vessels.

Some sea gulls, cormorants and other birds were dead. Others caught in the spill flapped away from volunteers trying to rescue them. At least several hundred animals have died, according to the government and environmental groups.

Although strong winds and 26-foot waves dispersed some floating oil in recent days, four slicks detected offshore were heading toward land. Residents fear more of the same.

The Prestige's cargo was more than twice the amount of crude oil spilled off Alaska by the Exxon Valdez in 1989.

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