- Oil from a sunken ferry has spread to the seabed and beaches
- The contamination is damaging the area's fishing industry, a local mayor says
- The owner of the ferry has taken steps to try to contain the spill
- Authorities say 64 people have died and 56 are missing from the sinking
The ferry disaster in the southern Philippines that has so far left more than 60 people dead and dozens more missing is also turning into an environmental catastrophe for the surrounding area as spilled fuel contaminates coastlines.
The St. Thomas Aquinas, the ferry that sank last week after colliding with a cargo ship near the port of Cebu, took tens of thousands of liters of fuel and engine oil with it into the water as it went down.
Now, local officials say, the oil is wrecking fishing grounds and staining beaches.
"We have the largest fishing ground in Cebu, 3,000 hectares, and all of it is covered in oil," said Mayor Andelino Sitoy of Cordova, a seaside municipality of Cebu City.
Sitoy said the spill is causing problems on three fronts, as it has contaminated seashores, as well as the mangroves where many fish find their food and the seabed, which is home to shellfish and eels.
The owner of the sunken ferry, 2GO, says it has taken steps to try to limit the damage, including deploying tugboats with spill-containment equipment and flying in oil spill experts.
But the 20,000 liters of diesel fuel, 120,000 liters of bunker fuel and 20,000 liters of lube oil that the St. Thomas was carrying are already taking their toll.