Trinidad and Tobago oil spill

This February 10, 2024 photo shows blackened ocean waves and shore contamination caused by an oil spill three days earlier off the coast of Tobago island, Trinidad and Tobago.

(Photo: Clement Williams/AFP via Getty Images)

Trinidad and Tobago Mulls Historic Disaster Declaration After 'Ghost Ship' Oil Spill

"Right now the situation is not under control," the prime minister said Sunday on the eve of the Caribbean nation's world-renowned Carnival.

The government of Trinidad and Tobago this weekend said it is considering what would be the island nation's first-ever Level 3 diaster declaration amid a worsening environmental disaster caused by an oil spill from a mysterious ship on the eve of the Caribbean country's famed Carinval.

As more than 1,000 emergency workers and volunteers raced to clean up the massive spill off Tobago's southwestern coast, Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Keith Rowley told reporters Sunday that "cleaning and restoration can only begin as soon as we have the situation under control. Right now the situation is not under control."

The spill came from a vessel of indeterminate origin that capsized off the coast of the Cove Eco Industrial Park on Wednesday. As Agence France-Presse reported, the ship—named Gulfstream—"made no emergency calls, with no sign of crew, and no clear sign of ownership."

Officials said the spill has affected over 25 miles of coastline and has damaged a coral reef and Atlantic beaches, threatening not only the environment and residents' health but also the vital tourism industry as the country prepares to host its world-renowned Carnival this week.

Farley Augustine, chief secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly, told reporters Saturday that the government may declare a Level 3 disaster for the first time in the nation's history. Level 3 spills require "substantial" international support.

"Everything indicates that we are going in that direction," Augustine said.

There have been hundreds of oil spills off Trinidad and Tobago's coast over the past decade. These accidents rarely attract international media attention and often go unpunished.

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