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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Tunisia’s neighbours offer help to contain damage after fuel ship sank

Tunisia’s neighbours offer help to contain damage after fuel ship sank

Divers find no leaks and government says ‘outlook is positive’ as navies try to limit environmental harm from sinking of vessel carrying 750-1,000 tonnes
Some neighbouring countries have offered to help Tunisia prevent damage to the environment after a merchant ship carrying up to 1,000 tonnes of fuel sank off the country’s coast, the Tunisian defence ministry has said.

The ship, which was travelling from Equatorial Guinea to Malta, requested entry to Tunisian waters on Friday evening due to bad weather. It sank near Gabes, and the Tunisian navy rescued all seven crew members. After being checked in hospital, all seven were taken to a hotel.

Xelo carried between 750 and 1,000 tonnes of fuel. The tanker was 58 metres (190ft) long and nine metres wide, according to the ship monitoring website

In a statement sent to Reuters, the defence ministry said that in order to control the environmental damage, the Tunisian navy would work with countries that had expressed their desire to help.

Divers who inspected the tanker detected no leaks on Sunday, officials said.

The transport minister, Rabie Majidi, said rescue workers had checked during the operation that the valves were closed, and the team of divers ensured they were sealed and intact.

“The situation is not dangerous, the outlook is positive, the ship is stable because luckily it ran aground on sand,” he told reporters.

The minister said the priority was to pump the diesel fuel and prevent any spillage or pollution.

An Italian ship specialised in cleaning up marine pollution would be sent alongside a team of divers to aid with efforts, an Italian official said.

As a precaution, protective booms have been placed around the wreck.

With the scene sealed off by Tunisia’s military, the defence ministry released pictures showing the vessel submerged on its side.

On Saturday, Tunisian authorities opened an investigation into the ship’s sinking, which the environment ministry said was caused by bad weather.

The coast of the southern city of Gabes has suffered major pollution for years, with environmental organisations saying industrial plants in the area have been dumping waste directly into the sea.

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