Sunken Oil Tanker Blackens Greek Beaches, Described as ‘Ecological Disaster’

An emergency operation is under way to clean up an oil spill from a sunken tanker that has blackened popular beaches and bays in Athens’ Argo-Saronic gulf.

What had been thought a containable spill is being described by officials as an ecological disaster after thick tar and oil pollution drifted toward residential coastal areas.

By Thursday, four days after the 45-year-old Agia Zoni II sank off Salamína island, mayors in suburbs south of the capital were forced to close beaches, citing public health risks.

“This is a major environmental disaster,” said the mayor of Salamína, Isidora Nannou-Papathanassiou. “Clearly the danger [of pollution] was not properly gauged, the currents have moved the spill.”

The vessel sank while at anchor in the early hours of Sunday. It was carrying 2,500 tonnes of fuel oil and marine gas when it went down in mild weather. It has emerged that only two of its 11-strong crew – the captain and chief engineer – were on board when it began to take on water. Both men have since been charged with negligence but freed on bail.

Photo: Jimzoun/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

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