Athens (AFP) - Greek officials fumbled their response to a minor oil spill that is now threatening the beaches near Athens five days after the suspicious sinking of a tanker, environmental groups said Thursday.
"This leak happened near the country's biggest harbour, just miles away from the operation centre of the ministry tasked with addressing such disasters," Dimitris Ibrahim, campaign director at Greenpeace Greece, told news portal in.gr.
Adding insult to injury, the amount of oil in question was "relatively small," Ibrahim said.
The oil spill on Sunday compromised beaches on the island of Salamis and officials were confident that it could be contained given mild wind conditions.
By Thursday, parts of the slick had drifted miles away and was threatening popular beaches in the Athens suburbs of Glyfada and Voula.
WWF Greece was likewise incredulous that "a country with heavy tankers traffic has proven unable to protect its beaches from an initially small-scale incident."
Merchant marine minister Panagiotis Kouroublis, who did not interrupt a trip to London over the incident, is visiting the area on Thursday.
He insists that every available resource has been thrown at the oil slick.
"A giant operation is under way," he told state agency ANA. "Everything will be clean in 20-25 days."
The 45-year-old vessel Agia Zoni II sank on Sunday near the island of Salamis while under anchor. The cause is still unknown.
The Greek-flagged tanker was carrying around 2,500 tonnes of fuel.
The only people on board at the time, the tanker's captain and chief engineer, were charged with negligence and released pending trial.
The ship's owners said the tanker was fully seaworthy and all its documentation was in order.