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Oil Spill Threatens Athens Beaches

Greek authorities continued to struggle on Friday to clean up an oil spill that occurred last Sunday when an oil tanker sank near the country’s main port, Piraeus, with the fuel now spreading to Athens beaches.

Environmental groups and opposition parties are now accusing the government of managing poorly the clean-up activities, and is calling for resignations.

A 45-year-old oil tanker, Agia Zoni II, carrying more than 2,500 metric tons of fuel oil and marine gas oil, sank early on Sunday off the island of Salamis, some seven miles off the Piraeus port. Although the oil spill was initially thought to be contained in the area where the tanker sank, five days later the oil slick has spread to the coastline of parts of the Athens Riviera, threatening some of the most popular local beaches.

Environmental groups and opposition parties are accusing the government of having a slow and poor response to the oil spill, and now claim the delayed response has worsened the threat to marine life, coastal areas, and the environment.

“This leak happened near the country’s biggest harbour, just miles away from the operation centre of the ministry tasked with addressing such disasters,” Greenpeace Greece’s campaign director Dimitris Ibrahim told local media, as carried by the BBC.

Greece’s shipping minister, Panagiotis Kouroublis, said on Thursday that “the situation already appears to be improving,” local newspaper Ekathimerini reports. “There’s a difference today compared to yesterday,” Kouroublis said on Thursday.

The minister added that he would step down if asked by the prime minister.

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Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the leader of the opposition party New Democracy, said that the prime minister should accept Kouroublis’s resignation over the handling of the incident.

An aerial footage shot by Up Drones and posted on YouTube on Tuesday shows the oil spill and the damage at Salamis.

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By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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