From: Reuters
Published June 7, 2006 12:00 AM

Oil Slick Threatens Tourist Beaches in India's Goa

MUMBAI — An oil slick from a cargo ship that sank off India's coast is threatening popular tourist beaches in the southern resort state of Goa, environmentalists said on Tuesday.

Oil patches have begun washing up on the beaches after the Panama-registered MV Ocean Seraya broke in two on Monday, a week after it ran aground about five km (three miles) off the coast of the neighbouring Karnataka state.

A 9-km (6-mile) wide oil slick is spreading northwards towards Goa pushed by strong winds and choppy seas due to the annual monsoon rains.

"Nothing has been done, I would say. The slick has impacted marine life because usually the worst happens in the first two days," Greenpeace spokesman Ramapati Kumar said.

Officials played down the risk to wildlife or the beaches, which are popular with foreigners, but environmentalists said a serious threat remained as not all of the ship's 690 tonnes of fuel had been pumped out.

As much as half may have already spilled from the ship.

"It is not a very thick slick ... we do not see any fresh spill now," K.B.L. Bhatnagar, a coast guard official, told Reuters.

"The slick has been neutralised as of now, but a threat remains because the ship's fuel tanks are still inaccessible."

Newspaper and TV reports said the oil slick had affected Goa's Polem beach and was heading for the nearby Palolem beach, which is 70 km (44 miles) south of the state capital, Panaji.

Officials said that 100 people were employed in a clean-up that involved spraying dispersants, cleaning beaches and would now focus on removing the remaining oil from the sinking ship. Authorities have sought help from a Singapore-based company with expertise in cleaning up oil spills.

The slick is small compared to major world spillages.

In November 2002, 11,000 tonnes of fuel oil devastated marine life and coastal areas along the coast of Spain's Galicia province after a tanker sank.

Source: Reuters

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