Beaches on Greek island covered in thick black oil after sinking of tanker

The 45-year-old Agia Zoni II sank while anchored off the coast of the island of Salamina (also known as Salamis), close to Greece's main port of Piraeus.

Several beaches on a Greek island are covered with thick black oil after a tanker carrying 2,200 tons of fuel oil and 370 tons of marine gas oil sank on Sunday (10 September). The 45-year-old Agia Zoni II sank while anchored off the coast of the island of Salamina (also known as Salamis), close to Greece's main port of Piraeus. The island's proximity to Athens makes it a popular weekend getaway destination.

A bird covered in oil that leaked from a sunken tanker tries to stay afloatGiorgos Moutafis/Reuters
Oil that leaked from a tanker that sank is seen on a beach on the island of SalamisGiorgos Moutafis/Reuters
Crude oil covers the sea off a beach on Salamis islandAngelos Tzortzinis/AFP

The cause of the sinking is not known. The tanker, which had set off on Saturday from an oil refinery near Athens, had been anchored by an islet near Salamina, about 25 kilometres west of the capital, when it began to leak, according to the Greek coast guard. The tanker's two crew members were rescued by the coastguard and taken to hospital, from where they were later released.

Greece's merchant marine minister Panagiotis Kouroumplis said that divers had managed to seal that leak and contain 95 percent of the ship's cargo. Barriers were erected to help contain the spill to a length of 1.5 kilometres. Greater Athens fisheries councillor Voula Toutountzi told the capital's municipal radio that the cleanup would probably take four months.

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A boom is used to contain the crude oil to the beach on the island of SalamisAngelos Tzortzinis/AFP
Workers try to clean up oil that has washed ashoreAngelos Tzortzinis/AFP
Rocks are covered with oil that leaked from a tanker that sank off the shores of Salamis islandGiorgos Moutafis/Reuters
Crude oil washes ashore on a beach on the island of SalamisAngelos Tzortzinis/AFP

However, strong winds on Tuesday night swept away chunks of the slick, and at least four kilometres of tar and oil now cover the sea between the towns of Kynousoura and Selinia on the island, and the slick is approaching Piraeus, according to GreekReporter.com.

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