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Oil spill at sea has caused a ‘national emergency’, Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister says

San Juan, Puerto Rico — The prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago said a major oil spill near the twin-island country in the eastern Caribbean had caused a “national emergency” as crews struggled to contain oil already covering numerous beaches on the southwest coast of Tobago.

The government has yet to identify the owner of the ship that overturned near Tobago last week, Prime Minister Keith Rowley said on Sunday.

It was not immediately clear how much oil had spilled and how much remained in the largely submerged vessel. It is unclear what exactly caused the ship to overturn.

Divers have failed to contain the leak and are trying to determine how to remove the remaining oil, said Farley Augustine, chief secretary of the Tobago Legislative Assembly, who visited the area with the prime minister.

Tobago is a popular tourist destination. Authorities are concerned about the impact of the spill. There was no immediate comment from environmental watchdogs.

Rowley said it was too early to know how much the cleanup would cost, but said “not so insignificant costs are being incurred simply in responding to this incident.”

He said several unidentified countries have offered help and discussions about those efforts are ongoing.

“Cleaning and restoration can only begin in earnest once we have the situation under control,” he said. “For the moment, the situation is not under control. But it seems to be controlled enough that we think we can achieve this.

Rowley said that for now, the good weather is making response efforts easier.

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