CaptionAn oil-spill volunteer assists in a clean-up operation. Some weeks earlier, the Bahamas-registered tanker Prestige, carrying 70,000 tons of heavy fuel oil, had begun to break up in bad weather, 250km off the coast. The Prestige was towed out to sea after both Spanish and Portuguese governments refused permission for the ship to enter their ports. At first, oil spillage was minimal, as most compartments remained intact. But six days later the tanker broke in half, its bow and stern sinking within hours of each other and releasing an oil slick nearly 200m wide and 30km long. The slick washed ashore within days, damaging a coast that was not only rich in wildlife, but along which whole communities depended on fishing for their livelihoods. Clean-up work was conducted largely by volunteers. Environmentalists accused the Spanish authorities of a slow response to the disaster.