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Greek crews struggle to mop up oil spill after tanker sinks

Updated: 2017-09-15 09:36

Greek crews struggle to mop up oil spill after tanker sinks

Workers clean a beach covered with oil that leaked from a small oil tanker that sank on September 10 off the shores of Salamina island, at the suburb of Faliro in Athens, Greece, Sept 14, 2017. [Photo/Agencies]

ATHENS, Greece — Greek authorities insisted Thursday they were doing everything they can to clean up pollution following the sinking of a small oil tanker that has left large sections of the Greek capital's coastal areas coated in viscous, foul-smelling oil.

Merchant Marine Minister Panagiotis Kouroumplis said "all the means available in the country" were being deployed to tackle the spill in the Saronic Gulf. The European Commission said Greece has requested help from the European Union and a specialized cleanup vessel has been deployed.

The Agia Zoni II tanker sank Sunday while anchored in calm seas off the coast of Salamina island, near Greece's main port of Piraeus, with 2,200 tons of fuel oil and 370 tons of marine gas oil.

The government has come under increasing criticism for its handling of the incident, with critics saying not enough was done in good time to prevent the oil slick from spreading from the island of Salamina across the coastline of what has become known as the Athenian Riviera.

Environmental and wildlife organizations have been posting instructions on social media on how members of the public should handle any stricken wildlife they come across, as well as phone numbers to call for help. The Saronic Gulf is home to dolphins, turtles, a wide variety of fish and sea birds.

Mayors of affected coastal areas are threatening to take legal action over the extensive pollution. Glyfada Mayor Girogos Papanikolaou said on Facebook that he planned to submit a lawsuit against anyone found responsible for the spill.

"From dawn today we have been making a superhuman effort with all means to restore the massive damage that has occurred on the Glyfada seafront," Papanikolaou said.

It is still unclear why the ship sank. According to initial announcements from Greece's coast guard on the day, authorities were alerted by a passing ship that the tanker appeared to have taken on water, and its two crew members were rescued.

It is also unclear how the spill managed to spread, or how long the cleanup process will take.

Asked on privately-run Skai TV who was to blame for the incident and ensuing pollution, Deputy Agriculture Development Minister Giannis Tsironis did not give a direct answer but blamed "a global economy dependent on oil."


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