Friday, September 15, 2017

Greece struggles to clean up oil spill

Greece struggles to clean up oil spill
A major clean-up operation which was underway on Thursday to address an oil spill that has spread across a large area of the Saronic Gulf will last for about three weeks, Greek Shipping minister Panagiotis Kouroumblis told a press briefing.

As oil slicks have blackened the sea area and several shores from Salamina island to Piraeus port suburbs and Athens' southern seafront, several local mayors have warned with legal action "against whoever are responsible" for the environmental disaster, Greek national news agency AMNA reported.

The environmental crisis broke out on Sunday after the sinking of small tanker "Agia Zoni II" which was anchored off Salamina Island under still unclear circumstances.

In the first hours the oil leaked by the vessel affected an area of about 1.5 kilometers along the island's coasts, but due to winds in the next days it gradually spread several nautical miles further and reached Piraeus suburbs and popular beaches in southern Athens districts, such as Glyfada and Voula.

Following a visit at the coastal areas of Piraeus on Thursday, the Shipping Minister Kouroumblis assured that the situation is improving.

"It is truly a difficult day. A gigantic effort is underway in order to limit the consequences caused by this sinking," Kouroumblis said.

He said clean-up crews have managed to seal off the submerged tanker and prevent any further leakage from Tuesday, adding that the oil still inside the ship will be pumped out within the day.

The tanker was carrying about 2,500 tons of oil, according to the shipping company "Agia Zoni" which owns the ship. It was still unclear on Thursday how much quantity had leaked into the sea.

"Our island has suffered a huge ecological destruction at the sea and the shores... Across two kilometers - the damage is already obvious from the air- people have left their homes... We request and we make a plea to not abandon us," Salamina's mayor Isidora Nanou told Xinhua on Thursday.

The oil spill has added to the woes of an island which for several years has suffered environmental issues and economic hardship, she said.

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