The broken-up Maltese-registered tanker Erika, carrying up to 25,000 tons of fuel oil
, sank in stormy Atlantic seas off northwestern France
on Dec. 3, according to the Cross Maritime Rescue Center. The tanker's stern, which contained most of the oil, sank as it was being towed farther out to sea to try to avoid pollution
on Brittany's tourist coast.
The bow disappeared earlier beneath the waves, about 24 hours after it split from the stern 45 miles south of Brittany's rugged Finistere Peninsula in 60 mph winds and 20-ft. (6 m) waves. Helicopters rescued the 26 crew members on Dec. 12.
Officials said the oil did not pose an immediate threat to the coast. The risk of pollution was further reduced by the sinking of the tanker, as fuel oil is heavier than seawater and would remain on the ocean floor.