(CNN) — Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Keith Rowley called the oil spill from the capsized ship a “national emergency” and pledged federal government financial assistance to deal with the crisis.
“This is a national emergency, so it has to be funded as an extraordinary expense. Money has to be found and prioritized. It's a priority because we have to respond, and we don't know the full scope and extent of what. That's necessary,” Rowley said at a news conference Sunday.
The prime minister also said that the identity of the mysterious boat that overturned 15 kilometers from the coast on the southern coast of Tobago Island on February 7 has not been identified.
“We don't know who it belongs to, we don't know where it comes from, we don't know everything in it,” he declared. “But it looks damaged (…) and we know it's leaking some kind of hydrocarbon that's contaminating the water and the beach.”
Authorities are carrying out clean-up operations on affected beaches and have set up barricades to prevent the spill from spreading to other areas, said Farley Augustin, chief secretary of the Tobago Assembly, with the prime minister.
Authorities sent divers to try to contain the spill, but they were unsuccessful, Augustine said Sunday.
“We are looking for ways to prevent the oil spill from breaching the barrier. But the experts made it clear that we cannot insert it in the way we expected, and we have to find a way. Extract all the oil from the ship, considering that we reiterate that we do not know the plans of the ship,” Augustine told reporters. .
CNN has contacted the Prime Minister's Office for more information on the leak and the government's response.
According to local media, Lambeau residents have reported a persistent stench from the spill, causing some to worry about their health.
“If you know you have respiratory illnesses, the best thing you can do is relocate or find ways to mitigate it,” Agustin Lambeau told residents. “They can use masks, and if they don't have them, we can make some available to them.”
The spill occurs during Carnival season, one of the country's biggest tourist attractions.
“The best part of Tobago's economy is its tourism, so it's important that we know that we don't expose tourism products to things like this, because this has happened, we have to control it,” the Prime Minister said. .