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OIL PUMPED FROM LEAKING TANKER OFF WALES

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Pollution experts began working Friday to pump oil still left aboard a holed tanker as conservation groups said thousands of birds and sea mammals were at risk.

A five-mile slick from the Liberian-registered Sea Empress began coming ashore on the Welsh coast Friday, a day after the tanker, with a crew of 28 Russians, ran aground near the port of Milford Haven.Members of the British government's anti-pollution squad said no more oil appeared to be coming from the tanker at the moment.

Joe Small, head of the Marine Pollution Control Unit, told reporters, "So far there is no deterioration in the ship's condition or any further loss of oil."

He said efforts were getting under way to pump oil from the vessel. Some 4,000 tons of the tanker's 130,000-ton cargo of North Sea crude is believed to have spilled into the sea.

But conservation groups said it was a race against the time and weather to avoid an environmental catastrophe.

"Much of the oil that has escaped so far has now come ashore, and we have picked up about . . . 100 oiled birds," said Iolo Williams of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

"If we have bad weather this evening and more oil does get out into the open sea, then it may well be an environmental disaster," Wil-liams said.

Another RSPB official said seals, dolphins and particularly wading birds were at risk in the area, which includes some of Britain's most important coastal wildlife zones.

"In another month's time there will be around half a million seabirds of all species off the coast. This area's international importance cannot be overemphasised," the RSPB's Louise Tickle said.

The port partially reopened Friday, coast guards said. Tanker operations were also set to resume Friday evening.

Britain's Transport Secretary, Sir George Young, flew by helicopter over the tanker to inspect the site. "Everything possible is being done to make sure no more oil leaks from the vessel," Young said, adding an inquiry was under way.

It was the worst accident in Britain since the supertanker Braer broke up on rocks in the Shetland Isles off the northern tip of Scotland in January 1993, spilling 80,000 tons.

After the Braer disaster in January 1993, Britain instituted new rules for ships operating in its waters, including tougher inspection procedures and designated high-risk areas.