A SUNNY holiday island has been branded a “ticking time bomb” amid fears of toxic waste being released into the sea.
Local campaigners told The Sun Online that the beautiful Greek destination of Santorini is “heading for disaster” in a major row over a disintegrating shipwreck.
The hulk of cruise ship MS Sea Diamond has been abandoned on the sea floor off the idyllic island for the 16 years after the 22,000 ton ship ran aground and sank.
Locals have been desperately fighting for years for the removal of the wreck fearing a potential catastrophe from the pollution coming from the ship’s fuel tanks.
Should ship break apart it could release toxic chemicals which could poison the island’s coastlines and make it dangerous for beachgoers.
But local authorities have so far failed to salvage the shipwreck, resulting in a long-running dispute over which one is responsible for its removal.
And now they fear the wreck’s degradation could be heading for a critical point, branding it a “ticking time bomb”.
Professor Loukas Lygnos, head of campaign group The Coordinating Committee of Thira Citizens for the Lifting of the Sea Diamond, warned the wreck could spark disaster for Santorini.
He told The Sun Online: “The shipwreck is located exactly in the caldera of Santorini, around 800m from the port. It is sunk about 100m underwater.
“It has 300 tonnes of fuel oils and other toxic chemicals, machine oils, in the generators, wires that are filled with copper, other materials from PBC and plastic that will slowly be diluted into the water over time.
“The experts who checked it, deemed the wreck will continue to pollute the caldera for hundreds of years until all the substances are diluted in water.
“Data from experts and a study by Crete’s Polytechnic University revealed that dangerous heavy metals were detected in extremely high concentrations in fish in the area, about 800 times over the EU limit.
“All these carcinogenic substances are dangerous for humans. At the same time, desalination procedures cannot filter through the dangerous heavy metals.
“The main problem is that these chemicals can enter the human body through bioaccumulation- either via desalination of the water or by fish consumption.
We were left with a shipwreck, a toxic bomb in our sea despite all the promises it will be removed
Professor Loukas Lygnos
“But the most eminent danger is for one of the tanks to render and release all these tonnes of fuel oils.
“If that happens it will be a huge environmental disaster for the Santorini beaches.
“As time passes, and the corrosion of the steel continues, the chances of this happening are increasing.
“An earthquake could also trigger it.”
It was April 5, 2007, when the cruise ship, owned by Louis Hellenic Cruises, sank on a reef off the island with a total of 1,195 passengers.
The majority of those onboard- mostly Americans and Canadians-were safely evacuated.
The only victims were French dad Jean Christophe Allain,45, and his 16-year-old daughter Maud whose bodies were never found.
In the months following the disaster, an attempt to decontaminate the waters surrounding the wreck was made, followed by an unsuccessful pumping operation two years later.
But the 469ft ship remains in the sea today and has become an artificial reef.
Greek authorities found the ship’s captain guilty in 2014 and deemed the company responsible for salvaging the wreck.
However, the decision was appealed and is still pending due to consecutive adjournments of the court case.
Local groups have slammed the local authorities for failing to salvage the massive ship which is located near one of the busiest ports in the Mediterranean.
Mr Lignos estimates that the removal of the ship could cost between £430m to £900m and urges those responsible to remove the wreck urgently.
He worries that over the years the ship will become rusty and its removal will be impossible.
He added: “We have been trying for the past sixteen years as we were left with a shipwreck, a toxic bomb in our sea despite all the promises it will be removed.
“We are all trying to protect our land, to convince the authorities to respect the laws.
“Our effort is self-evident, is human, is what anyone should do for our environment, our land, our sea.
“As a father of three children, I want to try to leave behind me the land as natural as possible.
“Because we need the environment to survive, it doesn’t need us.”