A stricken tanker which has been leaking oil off the north-west coast of Spain...
A stricken tanker which has been leaking oil off the north-west coast of Spain has sunk after breaking apart, taking thousands of tons of fuel with it.
There are fears of a massive ecological disaster if all the oil escapes from the Bahamas-registered tanker, which was about 250 kilometres from the Spanish coast when it started to break up.
Some of the compartments containing oil will go to the sea bed intact, lessening the impact of the spill, but it is impossible to say how many. The low temperature of the sea will hopefully slow down the speed at which the oil escapes from those compartments which have split.
Environmentalists warn that if the entire cargo spills, the resulting damage could be double that caused in the Exxon Valdez disaster off the coast of Alaska in 1989 - one of the worst ever.
The European Commission has declared that catastrophe could have been averted if governments had enforced new rules which oblige authorities to inspect at least a quarter of all ships entering their ports.