Oil Tanker Disaster

* An oil tanker broke in two and sank 150 miles off the coast of Spain yesterday, posing a potential environmental disaster.

The crew of the tanker Prestige already had been rescued, but Spanish beaches were mired in oil and scores of animals were covered in sludge. The Prestige was carrying more than 20 million gallons of fuel oil when it sank to the ocean floor, some 11,800 feet down. The tanker's oil containers seemed to remain intact, but experts say the toxic fuel was likely to seep out eventually.

"We hope that the sunken part does not spill its fuel. But still it's a time bomb at the bottom of the sea," said Maria Jose Caballero of Greenpeace in Spain.

The tanker's Greek captain, Apostolus Maguras, was jailed on charges of disobeying authorities and harming the environment. Spain claims that Portugal should have been keeping an eye on the tanker, which was damaged in a storm last week and leaked some of its cargo. Portugal says it was Spain's responsibility.

If the ship loses its entire load of oil, the spill would be nearly twice the size of the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska.

Nutria Hunt

* Now is a bad time to be a nutria in Louisiana. Starting today, the state will pay a $4-a-tail "incentive" for each swamp-dwelling rodent that is killed.

The payment is part of an effort to save Louisiana's coastal lands, which are disappearing at a rate of 35 square miles a year. The nutria -- imagine a 10-pound rat with webbed feet -- is a non-native species that has overrun Gulf of Mexico wetlands. The animal devours plants that keep the soil from washing away.

Nutrias were brought from Argentina in the 1930s and raised on farms for their fur. But the demand for nutria coats has dropped, and escaped nutrias have multiplied in the wild. Officials hope to wipe out 400,000 this winter. To collect the bounty, trappers must present the nutria tails frozen or salted.

-- From staff and wire reports

The Prestige oil tanker broke in two near Spain.