Chennai oil spill: Damage may be 10 times worse than originally thought, admits Coast Guard

Five days after two ships collided near Chennai, releasing tonnes of oil sludge into the ocean off the Tamil Nadu coast, the Coast Guard has said the damage might be much worse than what was originally feared.

Speaking to India Today, Coast Guard inspector general S Paramesh said the ships involved in the collision tried to minimise the scale of the spill. "The spill is 10 times than what was reported. Location of accident was two nautical miles from the coastline. A Coast Guard team has been divided into small groups. Eighty percent of cleaning work has been completed at Marina Beach stretch. By (Saturday) evening, the full stretch of Marina will be cleared," Paramesh said.

Over 70 tonnes of sludge have been released into the ocean. AFP

Over 70 tonnes of sludge have been released into the ocean. AFP

However, the rate at which the oil is spreading to other parts of the Chennai coast suggests that this claim may also be too premature. A report in The Times of India said the oil has spread 32 kilometres south of the point where the spill originally took place, and is likely to reach Uthandi, over an hour away, by Monday.

The oil spill trajectory prediction system employed by INCOIS works based on inputs like details of the oil spill, location, date and time of the spill, quantity and type of oil spilled, the report mentioned. The system is linked to the Ocean State Forecast System, that provides parameters like wind direction, speed and currents. The model will generate the trajectory and zones that are likely to be affected. INCOIS has found that about seven tonnes of oil will evaporate each day over the next one week. About 10 tonnes will be beached every day until next week.

That may be too late for damage control, however. A report in Hindustan Times said the delayed response by the authorities to the spill may hurt the fishermen the most.

"They didn't remove it immediately, and now it has spread across all beaches, including Marina. Now it's mixed with the sand to create this semi-solid substance, and has severely damaged the ocean," K Bharati, leader of the Fishermen’s Welfare Association in South India told the newspaper. "This could have been contained easily. Instead, you have Coast Guard officials who haven't been informed of the situation by the port, and who aren't working effectively with them."

Meanwhile, the crew and officials of the two ships involved in the accident have been asked to stay back at the port pending further inquiry into the incident.

Updated Date: Feb 03, 2017 15:00 PM

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