Santorini dogged by pollution threat

Efforts to clean the coastal area of Santorini where the Sea Diamond cruise ship sank last Friday were hampered by strong winds yesterday, as local authorities grew increasingly concerned about the possibility of more oil leaking out from the wreckage. There are some 450 tons of diesel still left in the ship’s fuel tanks and Santorini Mayor Angelos Roussos told Kathimerini that Louis Cruise Lines, which owns the Sea Diamond, is obliged to submit a plan as to how it intends to safely empty the tanks. The ship is in a precarious position as it is resting upside down at a depth of some 120 meters and there is a risk that it may slide further down into Santorini’s caldera. Strong northerly winds made it difficult for vessels to continue cleaning up the spilled oil yesterday. Vassilis Mamaloukas, the man in charge of the cleanup operation, told Kathimerini the spill had not spread as the wind had not changed direction. «The floating barrier around the shipwreck and the other barriers in place are containing the pollution,» said Mamaloukas. Meanwhile, confusion continued to surround the events that led to the sinking of the ship and as to who instructed the tugboat to pull the Sea Diamond to the point where it eventually sank. Sources told Kathimerini that the last orders that Merchant Marine Ministry gave to the captain and Louis Cruise Lines was to ensure that the ship would not block access to the port of Athinio for other vessels. Conversations between officials in the emergency room at the ministry and the captain have been recorded and could provide useful evidence for investigators. Specialized equipment is being flown in from the USA to help find the ship’s voyage data recorder, which should contain crucial clues to the Sea Diamond’s last hours.

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