A massive oil spill from an overturned ship off the coast of Trinidad and Tobago is “not under control”, Prime Minister Keith Rowley said on Sunday.
The mysterious vessel capsized in the waters off the Caribbean island on Wednesday, without having made any emergency calls, with no sign of crew and no clear signs of ownership.
Rowley declared a national emergency on Sunday as oil leaks from the ship affected about 15 kilometers (nearly 10 miles) of coastline.
“Cleaning and restoration can only begin as soon as we have the situation under control. For now, the situation is not under control,” the prime minister told reporters.
Divers have so far been unable to plug the leak.
Hundreds of volunteers have mobilized since Thursday to stop the spread of the oil, and the government has asked for even more to help.
The leak damaged a reef and beaches in the Atlantic, and residents in the village of Lambeau were advised to wear masks or temporarily relocate.
The oil spill comes at the height of the carnival, threatening tourism activity which is crucial to the economy of this two-island country.
It is unclear to what extent tourism will be affected. A cruise ship carrying 3,000 people docked in Tobago on Sunday.
Rowley said the mysterious vessel may have been involved in “illicit” business, adding: “We don’t know who it belongs to. We have no idea where it comes from, nor do we know everything it contains.
Divers spotted the name “Gulfstream” on the side of the craft and identified a length of cable, possibly indicating it was being towed, Rowley said.
The island’s emergency management agency said there were no signs of life on the ship, which is about 100 meters (330 feet) long.