Authorities on Santorini on Saturday launched the first phase of a long-delayed operation to pump out dozens of tons of fuel from the wreck of a cruise ship that sank off the popular Aegean island in April 2007 and has been at the bottom of the sea ever since. The 6-million-euro operation, to be carried out in three phases, is to be funded by Louis Hellenic Cruises which owns the sunken Sea Diamond. The project – being overseen by Merchant Marine Minister Anastassis Papaligouras, who arrived on the island on Saturday – is expected to take three weeks to complete. The first phase will involve the installation of suction pipes to remove the fuel from the wreck. Then all openings in the wreck will be plugged shut to avoid the leakage of any fuel remnants. It is unclear when the wreck itself will be lifted from the seabed.