Finisterre (Spain), Nov. 21 (Reuters): Spaniards battling to keep a wave of oil slicks from a sunken tanker at bay with little more than shovels faced a new enemy in high winds today.
Volunteer fishermen joined the painstaking clean-up of the toxic fuel oil that has already washed ashore from the Prestige, which snapped in two and sank 130 nautical miles off the coast on Tuesday, six days after getting into difficulty in a storm.
Satellite pictures published today showed a trail of oil left by the stricken vessel as it was towed out to sea. She took most of her 77,000 tonnes of fuel oil to the ocean floor some 3.6 km below, but at least 10,000 tonnes is believed to have leaked into the Atlantic.
And the weather was not cooperating. A cold front coming in off the Atlantic pushed a wave of slicks closer to the shore of Galicia in northwest Spain. Strong wind and driving rain was reported on the coast.
“If there are oil slicks off our coast, with this wind they will be coming ashore, whether on the beaches or the rocks,” said fisherman Jose Montero, 36, inspecting his nets in Finisterre, the westernmost point of mainland Spain, where fishing has been banned for at least a month.
“We are all very worried because this is our livelihood. This is a huge problem,” he said.
A Danish pilot who sailed aboard the tanker was quoted today as saying the Prestige was not seaworthy before it ran into trouble in an Atlantic storm about 21 miles off the Galician coast last week.
“The ship should not have been allowed to sail. It was old and I hoped that it would be sent directly to the scrap yard as soon as it had unloaded its cargo — because that’s all it was good for,” Jens Jorgen Thuesen said.