Stranded oil tanker damages coral in south

PINGTUNG, Taiwan — The stranded oil tanker Colombo Queen has left some coral formations off the southern county of Pingtung damaged, although it remains to be determined how much coral has been affected and to what extent, the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) said yesterday.

Results of a preliminary investigation show that an area of about 300 square meters surrounding the 497-ton tanker has been affected, about 150 square meters of which is covered with coral, said officials from the Construction and Planning Administration under the MOI.

The administration will continue to monitor the affected area to see whether any fuel oil has leaked from the stranded ship and whether it has affected any other marine life, the officials said.

Meanwhile, work that began a day earlier to remove the 39,000 liters of fuel oil from the stranded tanker was suspended Tuesday because of bad weather caused by the approaching tropical storm Nangka, said the Pingtung County Environmental Affairs Bureau.

As tropical storm Nangka is poised to sweep toward the Bashi Channel and the Taiwan Strait, the company authorized by the bureau to pump out the oil from the Colombo Queen began working instead to prevent further damage to the ship by strong winds that could trigger leakages.

The ship, registered in the East African island nation of the Comoros, got stuck on a reef just 50 meters from the coast in Pingtung County’s scenic Jialeshuei coastal park area Saturday during tropical storm Linfa.

There were no signs of leakage from the vessel, but workers were called in to remove the fuel oil from the tanker before the authorities ask its owner to refloat the ship.

The Colombo Queen was on its way from Hiroshima in Japan to Sri Lanka and local authorities are concerned about a replay of the January 2001 Amorgos disaster, in which 1,150 liters of oil spilled from a Greek ship stranded in the same area. The valuable coral habitat took six years to recover from the damage, while Taiwan’s efforts to sue for compensation in international courts took even longer.

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