ATHENS – The Greek health minister announced a ban on swimming and fishing off the coast of Athens on Friday as crude oil leaking from a small sunken tanker continued to wash up on the shores of the capital.
The Agia Zoni II sank Sunday morning off the coast of Salamis Island, carrying more than 2,000 tons of fuel.
Andreas Xanthos said officials from the areas affected by the oil spill were taking the necessary measures and that over the course of the day detailed instructions would be given.
Oil spilled from the vessel has contaminated the stretch of seafront near the capital, from the Port of Piraeus to Voula, and sparked an ecological disaster in the Saronic Gulf.
According to local media reports, hotel owners operating in the area affected were worried about the consequences the spill could have on their livelihoods – with the beaches closest to the capital covered in oil.
A specialist company on Thursday began pumping the more than 2,000 tons of fuel still on the sunken boat, whose owner must cover the cleanup costs.
As the cleanup of the contaminated areas intensified, questions about the sinking mounted.
Merchant Marine Minister Panagiotis Kouroumplis told private television channel SKAI that two boats belonging to the company that owned Agia Zoni II had been confiscated in the past over alleged involvement in smuggling hydrocarbons.
Speaking on the same program, the owner said he had been acquitted on both occasions.
The Agia Zoni II was a single-hull tanker made in 1972 that, according to European legislation, should have been retired in 2003.
Its sinking happened, according to the testimonies of two crew members on board, when the engine room flooded while the ship was anchored off Salamis Island.