Greek Tanker Torn Apart in Blast; 7 Dead : 16 Others Injured by Blinding Explosion at Shipyard Near Athens
A blinding explosion split a Greek oil tanker in two in a shipyard near Athens today, killing at least seven people, authorities said. Sixteen others were injured, many of them with severe burns.
Harbormaster Manolis Peloponessios said that two bodies have been recovered and that at least two workers are missing from the 10:15 a.m. blast that shattered the 86,000-ton Anangel Greatness in this industrial port 10 miles west of the capital.
“We fear they (the two missing workers) may be trapped in one of the tanks that’s now below water,” Peloponessios said.
Harbor authorities say there was no suspicion of terrorism. Instead, authorities say, the blast is believed to have been caused by gas fumes in the vessel’s empty tanks.
Investigators speculate that welders working on the ship during routine maintenance and cleaning may have sparked the blast.
Last July 11, Arab terrorists launched a grenade and machine-gun attack that killed nine people and injured 98 others aboard the City of Poros ship as it was returning to Athens from a Greek island cruise.
The skipper of the Anangel Greatness, Capt. Anastasios Theocharis, said the ship had been certified free of gas before it sailed into Perama on Monday. Merchant Marine Ministry officials said the ship carried documents showing that all gas had been removed.
A Perama police officer who requested anonymity said portions of what appear to be five other bodies have been found but not yet identified. He said the blast “produced a blinding light in the sky.”
Officials said the explosion in the vessel’s No. 3 fuel tank tore the ship apart as about 25 workers were on board for cleaning and maintenance work. Its 28-member crew also was aboard.
“I was in the control room at the stern when I heard a tremendous noise and everything clattered to the deck,” Theocharis said.
“People were tossed all over the place. There were body fragments landing on the deck of another tanker berthed next to this one,” said Costas Sakaros, a metalworkers’ union official.
Sakaros said crew members on the deck of the adjacent tanker, the 300,000-ton Norwegian flag Ingres, were blown into the air by the force of the blast.
The green-and-white vessel started sinking but settled in shallow water, covered in oily scum. Five hours after the blast, black fumes still hung over the waterfront. The explosion also shattered windows in stores and offices around Perama.