French firm pays out for oil disaster

In a historic ruling, oil giant Total were ordered on Wednesday to pay millions of euros in damages for a disastrous oil spill in 1999, which unleashed a wave of toxic fuel off the coast of France, crippling local industry and killing or injuring 300,000 sea birds.

The judge ruled, the Guardian reported, that groups including bird protection associations, fishermen and oyster-farmers had a right to compensation for the environmental damage caused. It is a legal precedent that will please environmentalists, the report said, which establishes that polluters can be held accountable for damage to the natural world, as well as to business and economic interests.

Around 270,000 tonnes of waste had to be treated in the cleanup operation after the sinking of the ageing oil tanker Erika.

Total was found guilty of negligence and fined 375,000 euros. It was also ordered to pay a share of nearly 200 million euros in damages to civil parties.

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