SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA, Spain (AP) -- Spain and Portugal raced to protect beaches and rich fishing grounds Wednesday from an expected onslaught of fuel oil from a tanker that broke in half and sank off their coasts.
The Bahamas-flagged Prestige ruptured in stormy weather Nov. 13, initially spilling about 800,000 gallons of fuel oil that contaminated fisheries, blackened beaches and killed wildlife along a 125-mile stretch of the Iberian peninsula. Despite efforts to salvage the vessel, it split in two and sank Tuesday about 150 miles off Spain's northern coast, near Portugal.
Salvagers said it dumped another 800,000 gallons of fuel into the Atlantic Ocean on Tuesday. The latest spill, believed to be the ship's own fuel rather than its cargo, was estimated to be 22 miles long and one-third of a mile wide.
On Wednesday, cleanup crews were scooping sludge from dozens of Spanish beaches amid hopes that the tanker's remaining cargo -- nearly twice the 10.92 million gallons dumped from the Exxon Valdez near Alaska in 1989 -- would solidify and stay inside the submerged vessel in waters more than two miles deep.
"We hope that the sunken part does not spill its fuel. But still it's a time bomb at the bottom of the sea," said Maria Jose Caballero, who heads Greenpeace's coastal protection project in Spain. "There's nothing that makes us believe it won't finally burst and leak all its oil."
There was no indication Wednesday that the sunken wreckage was leaking, Arsenio Fernandez de Mesa, chief government representative in the Galicia region, told The Associated Press.
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