Cleaning up after a massive oil spill off northern Spain will cost the government at least one billion euros ($1.1 billion), excluding costs of tax rebates and work on the sunken tanker, Spain said yesterday. “Our initial economic evaluation, which could be surpassed by reality, (is) one billion euros,” Spanish Finance Minister Cristobal Montoro told a paliamentary committee yesterday. The Prestige oil tanker, which was carrying 77'000 tonnes of fuel oil, snapped in half and sank in November, spewing oil over hundreds of kilometres of Spanish and French coastline. The tanker is still leaking from the bottom of the ocean and a French submarine is working at the site to plug the holes, before a permanent solution can be found. The government has promised benefits and tax rebates to those affected by the spill, which has closed fisheries and threatens a lucrative tourism industry. Montoro said 500 million euros would be spent cleaning up at sea, 350 million euros on cleaning the coast, 75 million at a national park made up of an archipelago of previously unspoilt and ecologically rich islands, and 75 million on other work. Much of the work is being carried out by volunteers from around Spain and further afield, and the army. Montoro, who described the spill as “one of the worst ecological and economic disasters in (the country's) history”, said he had written to Roman Prodi, President of the European Commission to ask for aid from various European funds and for the creation of a specific fund in Europe. The minister reiterated that a balanced budget provided slack to deal with the crisis and that the government had set no limits on spending to deal with the crisis.

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