‘Disaster’ feared as ship with diesel on board sinks off Tunisia

Vessel, headed from Egypt to Malta, had requested entry to Tunisian waters on Friday evening due to bad weather.

A ship carrying 750 tonnes of diesel from Egypt to Malta has sunk in the Gulf of Gabes off Tunisia’s southeast coast.

“The ship sank this morning in Tunisian territorial waters. For the moment, there is no leak,” Mohamed Karray, a spokesman for a local court said on Saturday, adding that a “disaster prevention committee will meet to decide on the measures to be taken”.

Earlier, authorities in Tunisia said the ship that ran into difficulty risks leaking and creating an “environmental disaster”.

The merchant ship, the Xelo, requested entry to Tunisian waters on Friday evening due to bad weather, the environment ministry said in a statement.

The Equatorial Guinea-flagged ship, headed from the Egyptian port of Damietta to Malta, began taking water about 7km (4 miles) offshore in the Gulf of Gabes and the engine room was engulfed.

Tunisian authorities had earlier evacuated the seven-member crew from the ship, which “risks leaking”, the ministry said, adding that the defence, interior, transport and customs ministries were working to avoid “a marine environmental disaster in the region and limit its impact”.

The environment ministry said the ship’s situation was “alarming” and that it had put in place an “urgent national intervention plan” to avoid a disaster.

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