Trinidad and Tobago is currently grappling with a major oil spill caused by a mysterious ship that ran aground last week.
The country’s Prime Minister, Keith Rowley, said on Sunday that the oil spill was not yet under control and called the situation a “national emergency”.
The unidentified vessel capsized last Wednesday, February 7, without sending a distress signal, without a known crew member and without a clear indication of its owner. The incident resulted in a major oil spill that affected nearly 10 miles of coastline.
Prime Minister Rowley said clean-up and restoration efforts can only begin once the spill is under control. However, despite their efforts, the divers were unable to plug the leak.
Hundreds of volunteers are working to manage the spread of the oil.
The impact of the spill reached the village of Lambeau, located on the southeast coast of the island of Tobago, where residents were advised to wear masks or temporarily relocate.
The mysterious vessel, named “Gulfstream,” is believed to have been involved in illicit activities, according to Rowley.
Despite the ongoing investigation and cleanup efforts, much about the ship remains unknown, including its origins and contents. Divers worked to find additional markings to help identify the overturned vessel. Authorities suspect it may have been towed.
The National Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) has provided equipment to the Tobago Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) in response to the oil spill. The Trinidad and Tobago Defense Force (TTDF) has provided additional supplies for the response, including Tyvek suits, hazardous materials bins and shovels, which will be crucial to the clean-up and containment efforts.
The disaster unfortunately coincides with the peak of Carnival, a critical season for the country’s tourism industry.