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France fears Prestige oil slick

The Nautile has attempted to plug the Prestige's leaks
The Nautile has attempted to plug the Prestige's leaks

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• Special report: Sinking of the Prestige 

RENNES, France -- Fears are growing that oil pollution from the sunken tanker Prestige is hitting the coastline of southwestern France.

Small slicks have been drifting towards the Landes region near Bordeaux for several days, but black patches have now turned up along a five kilometres long stretch of beach.

It is feared strong winds have pushed the oil towards France and Spanish media estimates that a cluster of slicks covering an area the size of New York City is now threatening the French coast, Reuters said.

"These oil patches... will be analysed in a laboratory at Brest to determine their origin," a spokesman for the local maritime authorities told Reuters.

The Prestige sank after splitting in two in heavy weather about 200 kilometres (130 miles) off the northwest Spanish coast in November.

It continued to spew out its 77,000-tonne cargo of fuel oil after coming to rest about three miles down on the sea bed. A French mini-submarine, Nautile, has since plugged some of the cracks.

A quarter of its cargo is estimated to have leaked to the surface, at a rate of 100 tonnes a day, mainly hitting the fishing villages off Galicia in Spain.

Plane monitors spotted about 100 small slicks of about 10 metres wide off the France coast on Tuesday, the news agency added.

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