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ENVIRONMENT REPORT - Effects of Oil Spill Near Spain

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This is the VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

A ship carrying more than seventy-five-million liters of oil sank November nineteenth in waters near the coast of northwestern Spain. Spanish officials say the ship spilled more than ten-million liters of fuel and oil. Environmental experts say the oil threatens fish and many different kinds of sea life near the coasts of Spain, Portugal and France.

The ship, called the Prestige, was damaged during a severe storm. The ship began leaking oil November thirteenth after strong waves caused the ship's hull to break open. Within a week, the ship split in two and sank. The ship went down near the coast of Spain's Galicia area.

Environmental experts believe the cold temperatures at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean will cause the remaining oil to harden and prevent it from spreading. Experts say the depth of the sea makes it almost impossible to pump the remaining oil from the tanks. Spain's government says it plans to send a small submarine to examine the sunken ship for leaks.

Devices on several anti-pollution ships were able to remove more than three-hundred-thousand liters of oil from the sea. However, oil from the Prestige has spread over more than three-hundred kilometers of coastline in the northwest Galicia area. Crews set up floating barriers to contain the oil. More than nine-hundred workers have used buckets and shovels to remove more than one-thousand-five-hundred tons of oil waste from one-hundred-forty beaches.

The coastal waters of northwestern Spain support many kinds of sea life and birds. Workers have collected hundreds of oil-covered birds and sent them to a cleaning center in the city of La Coruna. Most of the birds were dying.

Fishing and seafood harvesting has been banned along the coast of Galicia, forcing many fishermen out of work. Government officials promised financial aid for fishermen and others affected by the disaster.

Environmental officials criticized Spain's decision to order the ship far away from its coast after it began leaking. The ship was towed in open waters for several days because no European nation would permit it in their port. Spain said the decision avoided a much worse environmental disaster along its coast. However, experts say it will take years to correct the damage to the environment.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written by Cynthia Kirk.

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