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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 August, 2003, 18:03 GMT 19:03 UK
Pakistan questions tanker crew
The crew manning the tanker that has caused a massive oil slick off the coast of Karachi have been told they must remain in Pakistan for questioning.

Plane flying low over sinking tanker
A plane sprays the sea with chemicals to break down the oil slick

The Greek and Filipino nationals sailing the stricken tanker are being interrogated by the authorities, according to Brigadier Iftikhar Arshad, the Karachi port official in charge of limiting the damage.

Investigators are trying to establish how the ship, Tasman Spirit, ran aground before spilling 17,000 tonnes of crude oil into the Arabian Sea.

Meanwhile, efforts to salvage the vast amount of oil left aboard the tanker continued today.

Salvage crews on Tuesday managed to siphon away 7,000 tonnes of oil from the tanker into another boat. Since yesterday, a total of 13,000 tonnes of oil have been shifted safely out of the grounded vessel.

More spills feared

The tanker is thought to hold another 22,000 tonnes of oil, which could take up to another fortnight to siphon away.

But experts warn that the vessel could break apart completely before all its oil has been removed.

MAJOR TANKER SPILLS
1978 Amoco Cadiz Brittany - 220,000 tonnes
1979 Atlantic Empress Tobago - 160,000 tonnes
1967 Torrey Canyon UK - 119,000 tonnes
1983 Braer Shetland Isles - 85,000 tonnes
1996 Sea Empress Wales - 72,000 tonnes
2002 Prestige North-west Spain - 42,000 tonnes
1989 Exxon Valdez Alaska - 38,800 tonnes

They have asked the Pakistani authorities to slow down the clean-up operation underway on Karachi's beaches, until they can be certain there is no threat of further spillages from the tanker.

According to a UK-based expert at fighting oil slicks, Dr Karen Purnell, it will be weeks, if not months, before the clean-up is complete.

A 7.5 kilometre stretch of coastline has so far borne the brunt of the oil spill, and residents nearby say they have found hundreds of oil-sodden sea animals washed up along it.

Sea-food off the menu

Marine fauna are not the only casualty of the oily seas.

A greasy haul
Local residents say the beaches are covered in oil-soaked fish

Many workers who were involved in early efforts to clean the beach have reported suffering sore throats and eye irritation. A local doctor said more than 250 people had sought treatment for toxic reactions to the oil yesterday.

Police and paramilitary forces have now been deployed to prevent access to the beach

Government officials say fishermen's hauls have not been affected by the oil, as the worst spillage is on the eastern edge of the coast while the main fishing fields are further west.

However, many Karachi hotels and restaurants have stopped serving sea-food.


SEE ALSO:
Pakistan fines oil tanker owners
16 Aug 03  |  South Asia
Disaster on Karachi's coastline
15 Aug 03  |  South Asia
Karachi oil tanker breaks up
14 Aug 03  |  South Asia
Oil 'emergency' off Karachi coast
13 Aug 03  |  South Asia
Comparing the worst oil spills
19 Nov 02  |  Europe


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