Urgent warnings issued for Santorini over toxic waste fears

A popular holiday island is on the brink of disaster as a sunken shipwreck left to rot for years has started to pollute the nearby environment.

Urgent warnings have been issued over the Greek island of Santorini amid catastrophic fears of toxic waste being released into the sea.

The hulk of cruise ship MS Sea Diamond has been abandoned on the sea floor for 16 years after the 22,000-ton ship ran aground and sank, The Sun reports.

Locals have been desperately fighting for years for the removal of the wreck, fearing a potential catastrophe from the pollution coming from the ship’s fuel tanks.

In a letter sent to the Greek Parliament’s Special Standing Committee for Environmental Protection this week, residents have demanded the necessary decision for the immediate removal of the ship.

“The shipwreck remains on the seabed and continues to pollute, at a slow but steady rate, it erodes daily and at any time it can cause an incalculable ecological disaster,” the letter read.

But local authorities have so far failed to salvage the shipwreck, resulting in a long-running dispute over which one is responsible for its removal.

Local campaigners told The Sun that the island is “heading for disaster” in a major row over a disintegrating shipwreck.

They say the government “has failed the community” in preventing the looming environmental disaster.

It is feared that the toxic chemicals released from the wreckage could poison the island’s coastlines and make it dangerous for beachgoers.

Major pollutants inside the Santorini shipwreck include large volumes of motor fuel and lubricants, hundreds of litres of battery electrolytes, copper cables, toxic heavy metals and other dangerous chemicals.

Experts suggest it could at least take at least 400 years for these pollutants to decompose.

And now they fear the rotting wreck could push the island into a catastrophic event, branding it a “ticking time bomb”.

Loucas Lignos, head of the campaign group The Coordinating Committee of Thira Citizens for the Lifting of the Sea Diamond, explained how the wreck could spark disaster for Santorini.

He told The Sun: “The shipwreck is located exactly in the caldera of Santorini, around 800 metres from the port. It is sunk about 100 metres underwater.

“It has 300 tonnes of fuel oils and other toxic chemicals, machine oils, in the generators, wires that are filled with copper, other materials from PBC and plastic that will slowly be diluted into the water over time.

“All these carcinogenic substances are dangerous for humans. At the same time, desalination procedures cannot filter through the dangerous heavy metals.

“The main problem is that these chemicals can enter the human body through bioaccumulation- either via desalination of the water or by fish consumption.

“If that happens it will be a huge environmental disaster for the Santorini beaches.”

It was April 5, 2007, when the cruise ship, owned by Louis Hellenic Cruises, sank on a reef off the island with a total of 1,195 passengers.

The majority of those on-board – mostly Americans and Canadians -were safely evacuated.

The only victims were French dad Jean Christophe Allain, 45, and his 16-year-old daughter Maud whose bodies were never found.

In the months following the disaster, an attempt to decontaminate the waters surrounding the wreck was made, followed by an unsuccessful pumping operation two years later. The wreckage of the 469ft ship was then left to rot – and remains in the sea today as an artificial reef polluting the nearby environment.

This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission

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