A week ago, the Greek authorities were scrambling to clean up leaked fuel from an oil tanker that sank near Athens. The most popular local beaches have been evacuated and put out of service until further notice. The World Wildlife Fund have filed a lawsuit in Piraeus against “anyone found responsible,” raising fears of environmental damage.
This type of lawsuit is common for the WWF because the court must be ready to go the moment government authorities find the guilty party. Oil spills like these are considered “an environmental crime deserving exemplary punishment.”
The Agia Zoni II, a 45-year-old oil tanker, sank early Sunday morning, September 10th, near the island of Salamis. The location of the disaster is just seven miles from the country’s main port, Piraeus. It was carrying more than 2,500 metric tons of fuel oil and 370 tons of marine gas oil.
The ship’s cargo spilled into waters which are home to dolphins, turtles, seals and a variety of fish and sea birds feed and live. Oil slicks have extended from the island of Salamina, near where the tanker went down, to cover the entire coastal length of Athens.
Though the leak was initially thought to be contained to the area of the shipwreck, it soon expanded to the coastline area known as the Athens Riviera. Evaggelia Simou, a resident of Salamina, on the island, denounced the authorities for not tackling the oil spill more quickly and fully.
The Greek government has faced criticism for what many observers said was a slow, inadequate response that allowed leaking oil to spread along the greater Athens area’s coastline. The tanker sank very near Piraeus, the country’s largest and best-equipped port.
The government has rejected the criticism, insisting it did everything possible to contain and clean up the slick.
“The effort to tackle the pollution is a difficult affair that requires the immediate mobilization of all the responsible bodies,” Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told his Cabinet ministers in televised comments Monday. “Already, all available counter-pollution means have been mobilized and great efforts are being made.”
The chief executive of the World Wildlife Fund’s Greece office, said it was essential to identify where responsibility lies.
“Through a thorough analysis of the causes, we will emerge better prepared to avert or control similar accidents in the future,” Karavellas said.