Eco groups warn Greece unprepared to respond to marine disasters


Environmental groups are sounding the alarm over authorities’ response to an oil spill that has spread across the Saronic Gulf to Athens’s southern coast.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said that as a country with heavy marine traffic, including large oil tankers, Greece should be in a much better state of preparedness to meet incidents like last weekend’s sinking of the Agia Zoni II off the coast of the island of Salamina.

Greece, the organization’s Greek branch said in an announcement, “appears unprepared to respond in a timely manner to protect its marine wealth and coasts, even in an incident that was initially of a relatively restricted scope.

“Unfortunately, the danger of marine pollution incidents is very real,” WWF added.

Greenpeace has also dispatched a team of experts to Salamina to conduct their own assessment of the damage wreaked so far, with activists laying out a banner on one of the island’s hardest-hit coastal stretches reading: “Coming to a beach near you.”

“If a relatively small leak can cause such destruction right beside the country’s biggest port and the operations center of the Shipping Ministry, what exactly is the country’s capability in dealing with leaks and accidents from large-scale oil operations in the Ionian and Cretan seas,” Greenpeace’s local energy campaign officer, Takis Grigoriou, said, referring to plans for natural gas exploration.

“The question is not whether another accident will happen, but when,” he added.

Meanwhile, the mayor of the southern Athenian town of Glyfada, Giorgos Papanikolaou, on Wednesday evening posted a message on Facebook saying that he intends to take legal action over the pollution that has reached his municipality’s coast, a popular swimming spot for the capital’s residents.

Papanikoalou said that crews have been busy since the early hours cleaning up oil that washed up on Glyfada’s beaches, but the operation will take several days if not weeks before the waters are safe again.

The municipal official also thanked hundreds of citizens who have come forward volunteering their services in the cleanup effort, but warned that it is a job best left to the experts.