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The wrecked tanker Braer lost a week-long battle against North Sea storms and broke up on Jan. 12, spewing the remains of its huge oil cargo into the waters of the remote Shetland Islands.

Island officials said ferocious weather broke up the grounded tanker, dashing hopes for preventing much of its 84,500-ton cargo from fouling the Shetland coast. Salvage operators had hoped the tanker would survive the high winds and snowstorms so they could contain the oil pollution.

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But the ship gave way before a salvage operation could even begin. The Liberian-registered ship ran aground on the southern tip of the Scottish islands Jan. 5.

Oil from the ship has killed hundreds of sea birds and endangered seals, otters, and other wildlife in one of the most important wildlife areas in Western Europe.

The ship's United States-based owners said yesterday their insurers had set up an emergency fund for islanders suffering hardship as a result of the oil. A program was announced Jan. 11 for Shetland Islanders living close to the wreck who had health concerns after coming into contact with toxic wind- and sea-borne oil pollution to receive checkups.

The British government also ordered a public inquiry into tanker movements around its coasts Jan. 11, as well as an investigation into the circumstances of the Braer accident.

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