Oil leak from cargo ship collision off India plugged after nearly 3 days

MUMBAI, India (AP) — Indian authorities have plugged a fuel leak in a container ship that collided into another cargo vessel and spewed 500 tons of oil into the Arabian Sea, a top government official said Tuesday.

But the principal port of Mumbai — India's economic hub — near where the collision happened on Saturday would remain closed until at least Wednesday, because of the spill and 300 cargo containers that had fallen from one of the ships, causing a navigational hazard, the defense ministry said.

The Panamanian-registered MSC Chitra smashed into the St. Kitts-registered MV-Khalijia-II near Jawahar Lal Nehru port. The accident caused the MSC Chitra to run aground and list heavily. Its fuel and lubricants spilled into the sea.

By late Monday, the leak was plugged after about 500 tons had spilled out, Ashok Chavan, the top elected official of Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital, told reporters.

The oil slick has spread over an area of nearly three miles (five kilometers) around the ship, defense ministry spokesman Capt. Manohar Nambiar told The Associated Press.

The MSC Chitra is tilting dangerously into the water, but the spokesman said there appeared to be little chance of the vessel sinking because it had run aground on a large rock very close to the harbor where the water wasn't deep enough to submerge the entire ship.

The Khalijia-II also suffered some damage, though no details were immediately available.

News reports Tuesday said the collision occurred because of a failure of radio communication between the two ship. It was not clear what cargo they were carrying and whether it included any hazardous material.

Nambiar said Lal Nehru port would be closed at least until Wednesday.