A Greek island bay has turned into a thick, black mess following an oil spill over the weekend. The "black tide" has since drifted around the Saronic Gulf towards some of Athens’s most beautiful beaches, with many environmentalist and wildlife groups pointing the blame towards the authorities for not acting fast enough.
The oil tanker, a 45-year-old vessel called Agia Zoni II, was carrying 2,200 tonnes of crude oil when it sunk near Salamina island in Greece's Saronic Gulf on Sunday. Initially, only a few of the beaches in the local area were affected, however the slick has spread to the nearby port town of Piraeus and beyond, including popular tourists destinations like Voula and Vouliagmeni. The sands of local beaches, particularly on the island of Salamina, are caked in gloopy oil and residents have reported finding dead birds caked in the tarry deposits.
“This a huge environmental and financial disaster, and all the [island’s] eastern coast is covered with crude oil,” Isidora Papathanasiou, the mayor of Salamina, told local news. She added that the “smell is intense and our eyes are stinging.”
An aerial video shot by Up Drones (below) documents the scale of the damage as seen from the skies on Tuesday, September 12.
The only two crew members onboard the ship were rescued and have since been charged with negligence. The vessel has also been sealed up by the coast guard authority, meaning the quantity of leaked oil is unlikely to increase.
Relatively speaking, the quantity of oil that leaked was not massive. However, environmentalists and conservation groups are furious at the authority’s reaction to the accident, claiming their delayed reactions have worsened the threat to wildlife and the environment.
“If a small relative leak causes such a disaster next to the country's largest port and the operational center of the Ministry of Mercantile Marine, what exactly is the country's ability to cope with spills and accidents from large-scale oil activities in the Ionian Sea and the Cretan Sea?” asked Takis Gregoriou, the head of the campaign for climate change and energy at Greenpeace's Greek office, in a statement.
"The issue is not if another accident will happen, but when,” he added.
Greece’s wing of the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) has similarly condemned the accident, calling it an "environmental crime". They argue this incident should be a wake-up call for those wishing to further Greece’s investment into the extraction of fossil fuels.