The sinking of an Italian tanker carrying 6,000 metric tonnes of toxic chemicals off France's Atlantic Coast has sent alarm bells ringing in the region. Loaded with 4,000 tonnes of styrene, a hydrocarbon used for making synthetic
plastic, rubber and resins, the tanker sank in an area where radioactive and chemical waste and World War II ammunitions had been dumped. Maritime officials have detected a strong odour of chemicals.
French president Jacques Chirac has demanded tougher safety rules for ships carrying dangerous cargoes. "This incident underlines the urgent need for introduction and application of ore-binding international and European community regulations regarding the safety of maritime transport," said the country's transport minister, JeanClaude Gaysoot.