Experts monitoring the leakage of toxic substances from the Sea Diamond cruise ship wreck off the popular Greek holiday island of Santorini warn that an ecological disaster is imminent unless plans for it to be raised are put into effect immediately.
Speaking to Kathimerini almost nine years after the Sea Diamond struck a reef off the island’s port and sank, killing two of the 1,195 passengers and 391 crew on board, the head of the Technical University of Crete team responsible for monitoring the wreck, Evangelos Gidarakos, warned that erosion of the hulk is causing pollutants trapped in the wreck to leak at an alarming rate.
Gidarakos said the wreck still contains several tons of fuel and engine oil, which is at risk of being expelled suddenly into the sea if the ship’s hulk, which is currently lodged precariously on the edge of a cliff, were to break apart. He also said that all of the electronic and mechanical equipment still on board the ship are additional sources of pollution.
“The rudimentary pollution barrier that has been placed at sea level is not adequate to collect all the substances that are being released,” Gidarakos said. “If the ship is left as is, a biological disaster will befall the caldera. Something needs to be done at once.”
Gidarakos’s concerns were also echoed by Santorini Mayor Nikos Zorzos.
“We are on hold. We had yet another meeting with the ministers of Maritime Affairs and the Environment two months ago and are waiting to see what action they will take,” Zorzos told Kathimerini. “People are concerned; they want a solution. Anyone opposed to raising the wreck needs to come up with an alternative, not just leave it there.”
An agreement was reached in February to create a body that will organize the recovery of the ship’s hulk.
The Sea Diamond, owned by Louis Hellenic Cruises, sank on April 6, 2007 after ramming into a reef just off Santorini’s Athinios port. A Frenchman, Jean Christophe Allain, and his daughter Maud, died in the accident.