Trinidad and Tobago Hit With Oil Spill

( – The small island country of Trinidad and Tobago has declared a national emergency after a ship capsized on its coast, triggering an oil spill that has blackened large swaths of the country’s pristine coastline.

According to Trinidad and Tobago’s Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM), an unknown sea vessel overturned close to the coast of the Tobago island, spilling oil that has affected roughly nine miles of the island’s coastline, covering the area with black sludge. As many as 1,000 people – many of whom are volunteers – have been working constantly to contain the spill and clean up the mess and minimize its adverse effects on the environment.

However, the country’s government has acknowledged the gravity of the situation, with Prime Minister Keith Rowley saying that things are “not under control.” Rowley said that efforts and initiatives to help address the issue will be “funded as an extraordinary expense,” adding that the government still has no idea of the “full scope and scale of what is going to be required.”

Divers have been dispatched in the hope of plugging the source of the oil leak, but efforts have been unsuccessful so far. Clean up workers have also installed floating barriers, or booms, to help contain the spill.

Tobago House of Assembly Chief Secretary Farley Augustine said that among the challenges they are facing include the unknown origin of the vessel, whose schematics could help authorities pinpoint the source of the leak so it can be plugged. Authorities are also struggling to think of a way to extract whatever oil is remaining in the ship, which is again hampered by their lack of knowledge of the ship’s inner workings. Only the keel of the ship is visible and above water, and authorities do not yet know if the ship is a freighter, a tanker, or a barge.

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