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Massive Oil Slick Blackens Beach

The oil from Prestige that has already washed ashore in Galicia...

The oil from Prestige that has already washed ashore in Galicia has blackened hundreds of kilometres of beach and rocky shore, and forced a ban on fishing and seafood harvesting along a 500-km stretch.

Tens of thousands of fishermen and other sea-dependent workers are living off government handouts.

Rough seas have prevented anti-pollution boats from tackling the largest slick yet from the sunken tanker Prestige.

Two oil-skimming vessels from France and the Netherlands earlier managed to suck up 2000 tonnes of oil from the huge slick now approaching Spain, but high waves have since kept them in port. And three similar vessels on loan from other European countries have yet to go out at sea at all.

Meteorologists and oceanographers said the weather forecast for the next few days made it inevitable that the latest slick would hit the coast, perhaps this weekend.

Spain says the oil that went down with the ship will probably solidify in depths of 3.5km and temperatures just above freezing.