Tunisia’s neighbours offer help to contain damage after fuel ship sank

Some neighbouring countries have offered to help Tunisia prevent damage to the environment after a merchant ship carrying up to 1,000 tonnes of fuel sank off the country’s coast, the Tunisian defence ministry has said.

The ship, which was travelling from Equatorial Guinea to Malta, requested entry to Tunisian waters on Friday evening due to bad weather. It sank near Gabes, and the Tunisian navy rescued all seven crew members. After being checked in hospital, all seven were taken to a hotel.

Xelo carried between 750 and 1,000 tonnes of fuel. The tanker was 58 metres (190ft) long and nine metres wide, according to the ship monitoring website Vesseltracker.com.

In a statement sent to Reuters, the defence ministry said that in order to control the environmental damage, the Tunisian navy would work with countries that had expressed their desire to help. Reports on Saturday said that at that point there was no leak.

Local media said Italy had offered to help and that it was expected to send a naval vessel specialised in dealing with marine disasters.

On Saturday, Tunisian authorities opened an investigation into the ship’s sinking, which the environment ministry said was caused by bad weather.

It said barriers would be set up to limit the spread of the fuel and cordon off the ship, before suctioning the spillage.

The coast of the southern city of Gabes has suffered major pollution for years, with environmental organisations saying industrial plants in the area have been dumping waste directly into the sea.

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