Sun, Oct 19, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Oil spills threaten Caribbean after storm damages boats

AP , CHRISTIANSTED, US VIRGIN ISLANDS

Authorities in St. Croix rushed to contain oil spills on Friday after more than 40 boats sank or washed ashore during Hurricane Omar.

About half the vessels lost their anchors, including houseboats, catamarans and pricey yachts and sailboats owned by tourists. The other half were tied at marinas but broke loose, said Carlos Fachette, enforcement director for the US Department of Planning and Natural Resources.

The hurricane caught many local boaters off-guard because they did not take the storm seriously, Kim Jones of the St. Croix Yacht Club said.

“It’s devastating,” she said of the damage. “That puts a brake into people getting into boating, which is such a way of life in the Caribbean. It’s going to take a lot to rebound.”

Roughly 400 boats are registered in St. Croix, she said.

Police on Friday also had to rescue three people from a 11m catamaran when it hit a reef and ran aground near Salt River Bay, Fachette said.

All St. Croix beaches have been deemed unsafe because of high pollution levels, and the Schooner Channel area of the Christiansted Harbor remained closed.

Omar passed overnight on Wed­nes­day between St. Martin and the US Virgin Islands, where the government has spent more than US$1 million in cleanup costs.

The storm caused more than US$700,000 in damages to roads in St. Croix and destroyed more than 100 utility poles in the east. About half of the island’s 55,000 people remained with power on Friday, Water and Power Authority spokeswoman Cassandra Dunn said.

St. Croix also reported heavy crop damage, as did Antigua and Barbados.

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