Ships sent to pump out oil trapped in the holds of the wrecked tanker Erika, which sank off France's northwest coast last December, have completed their task, French oil giant TotalFinaElf said. The French government announced earlier this week that it had decided to leave the broken wreck where it was, some 70 km (40 miles) off the coastline, saying that to try to move it further out to sea or raise it was too risky. The Maltese-registered Erika broke in half in stormy seas on December 12, and spewed up to 15,000 tons of oil onto the rocky shoreline.
Thousands of tons of oil remained trapped in two sections of the ship, and the government ordered a clean-up during the summer months when the seas were normally calm. TotalFinaElf, which had chartered the Erika and paid for the bulk of the pumping operation, said in a statement that valves attached to the hold to help get the viscous fuel oil out to the surface had all been sealed.