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Heavy Seas Block Efforts To Save Tanker

Mon., Feb. 19, 1996

A gale forced marine engineers Sunday night to abandon a the crippled supertanker, which is slowly leaking oil into the sea off southwest Wales. An important wildlife haven is nearby.

The six-man team was taken off the Sea Empress by helicopter, leaving the vessel buffeted by high seas and strong winds secured by only two tow lines to a tug.

Tow wires snapped in a gale Saturday night during an initial attempt to gain mastery of the drifting, wallowing vessel.

“The vessel is not under as much control as we would like,” said Joe Small, the Department of Transport’s head of marine pollution control. But he said it was not in danger of breaking up.

Marine engineers hope to reboard the vessel when the weather eases and continue preparations for pumping oil from the damaged vessel’s tanks into other vessels.

The Sea Empress first ran aground Thursday on St. Ann’s Head at the tip of the western promontory guarding the mouth of Milford Haven estuary.

Helicopters on Sunday sprayed chemicals on oil seeping into the estuary, which, along with two nearby islands, is home to significant bird populations.

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