Chennai oil spill dooms turtles
A thick oily tide from the sea lapped at the coast of several fishing hamlets in north Chennai on Sunday, a day after two cargo ships, one of them an oil tanker, collided off Kamarajar Port in Ennore.
Several dead turtles and hatchlings coated with the black oil were washed ashore and discovered among the boulders.
By afternoon, the spread of oil was seen on a 400-metre long stretch, 40 metres wide, near the Ernavur junction.
Of the two ships, M.T. Dawn Kanchipuram coming from Mumbai with a full load of petrol and diesel collided around 4 a.m. on Saturday with an LPG tanker, M.T. BW Maple.
Since there was a spill from the oil vessel, the Ennore Kamarajar Port authorities placed containment booms around the ships.
The floating oil along the shore of north Chennai came as a shock to the fishing villages, since the Port authorities had said on Saturday that there was only a thin sheen from the ships and it would disappear soon.
Hundreds of residents watched oil swirling in the waters.
“Right beyond Cherian Nagar beyond Kasimedu fishing harbour, we have been smelling oil. And it has made breathing quite difficult. We feel as if there is a taste of oil in our mouths and we smell of oil,” said a vendor at the beach at Bharathiyar Nagar, where hundreds of residents gathered to watch the spectacle.
The Port insisted it had nothing to do with the collision. Officials of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) visited Bharathiyar Nagar off Ernavur junction on the Ennore Expressway, where the spill was visible even in the evening.
TNPCB engineers said samples had been collected and the type of oil would be ascertained after tests.
A team of experts from IIT Madras too were at the spot.
“We went up to the Kamarajar Port but could spot the oil only at one location. It does not seem like petrol or diesel but looks like lube or furnace oil. The samples will be analysed,” a TNPCB official said.
A Pollution Response team from the Coast Guard that had been alerted by the TNPCB reached the spot and used oil mop skimmers and sponge-like absorbents.