Norway cleans up after oil spill

Wildlife reserves devastated as 200 tons of diesel from stricken tanker washes up on beaches
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An oil tanker sits in a slick of 200 tons of diesel, 100 miles south of Norway's capital city, Oslo. Pictures, taken in the aftermath of the spill from the vessel, demonstrate the scale of the catastrophe: the usually picturesque beaches of Sastein and Langesund, site of wildlife sanctuaries and tourist beaches, have seen birds slaughtered and a massive clean-up operation has been launched following one of the country's worst oil disasters.

The boat, a Panama-registered freighter called Full City, ran aground in bad weather following engine trouble on 31 July. The 23-strong Chinese crew was immediately scrambled off the ship but not before much of the 1,100 tons of oil on board slipped into the sea off the village of Langesund and spread 100 miles along the coast.

It has now emerged that safety questions had been asked about the 167m tanker – thought to be owned by the Chinese-based shipping giant Cosco – on more than 30 occasions in 11 years by European harbour authorities. Last week the captain of the ship was charged for not warning the authorities it was in trouble during the storm. He was released on bail.

In the days following the disaster, one of Norway's worst, thousands of birds said to be part of the Lille Sastein bird sanctuary and which were covered in oil, were considered beyond saving and had to be shot. Hundreds more are being cleaned up by volunteers along the coastline.

Around 200 tons have been collected from the sea so far, while Norway's government comes up with a plan to deal with the ship which may yet have to be broken up where it stands.

Norwegian authorities, who have been criticised by conservationists for their apparent slow response, said efforts were focusing on protecting fjords, bays and rivers and blamed bad winds immediately after the spillage for spreading the oil to shores.