Oil leaks from sunk Ibiza ship to be sealed Monday

Workers clean up fuel oil on Talamanca's beach in Ibiza July 15, 2007. REUTERS/Sonia Gaitan

MADRID (Reuters) - A sunken ship leaking fuel and oil into the sea near an Ibiza nature reserve will be sealed on Monday, a Spanish government minister said.

Clean-up crews have been at work since Wednesday when the merchant ship ‘Don Pedro’ sank off the port of Ibiza, releasing 150 tons of fuel oil into the Mediterranean and forcing authorities to close three beaches on the popular resort island.

The oil slick had not passed absorbent barriers put in place to protect the Ses Salines nature reserve, Public Works Minister Magdalena Alvarez said at a news conference on Sunday.

Earlier, Environment Minister Cristina Narbona had said the oil had reached the sea waters of Ses Salines, a resting point for migratory birds between Africa and Europe whose reed-fringed salt marshes boast a year-round flamingo population.

“The reserve comprises land and sea, obviously there is pollution in the sea, we are trying to make sure it doesn’t get to the beaches of the reserve,” Narbona said.

A spokesman for the Public Works Ministry could not explain the apparent contradiction late on Sunday. No-one at the Environment Ministry was available for comment.

Divers inspecting the ship on Saturday found new leaks, from which fuel and hydraulic oil were escaping into the sea. Crews were working to clean up fuel and oil from the leaks directly from the sea and removing polluted sand from beaches.

Authorities have contracted a Dutch salvage vessel to remove the remaining fuel from the sunken ship.