T&T In State Of National Emergency Over Oil Spill Caused By Mystery Ship.

Aerial view of an overturned vessel off the coast of Trinidad and Tobago. Handout/Tobago House Assembly.
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Trinidad and Tobago’s prime minister said a large oil spill near the twin-island nation in the eastern Caribbean has caused a “national emergency” as crews struggled to contain the oil already coating numerous beaches on Tobago’s southwest coast.

The government has yet to identify the owner of the vessel that overturned near Tobago last week, Prime Minister Keith Rowley said Sunday.

Divers have so far been unable to plug the leak. They spotted the name Gulfstream on the craft’s side and identified a length of cable, possibly indicating it was in the process of being towed, Rowley said.

The vessel capsized on February 7 off the coast of the Cove Eco-Industrial Park in southern Tobago, and currents have dragged it shorewards.

When sighted on Wednesday, the ship was sailing under an unidentified flag and made no emergency calls.

The island’s Emergency Management Agency said there were no signs of life on the vessel, whose cargo was initially believed to consist of sand and wood.

It was not immediately clear how much oil had spilled and how much remained in the largely submerged vessel. It was not clear what caused the vessel to overturn.

Divers have not been able to contain the leak and are trying to determine how to remove the remaining oil, said Farley Augustine, chief secretary of Tobago’s House of Assembly, who toured the area with the prime minister.

Tobago is a popular tourist destination. Officials worried about the spill’s impact. There was no immediate comment from environmental watchdogs.

Rowley said it’s too early to know how much the cleanup will cost but said “some not-so-insignificant costs are being incurred just to respond to this incident.”

He said several unidentified countries have offered to help, and discussions about those efforts are ongoing.

“Cleaning and restoration can only seriously begin after we have brought the situation under control,” he said. “Right now, the situation is not under control. But it appears to be under sufficient control that we think we can manage.”

Rowley said that for now, good weather is helping response efforts.

Source: Voice of America.
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