Oil leak plugged on damaged ship after nearly 3 days, but Indian port still closed

MUMBAI, India (AP) — A fuel leak has been plugged in a container ship that struck another cargo vessel and spewed 500 tons of oil into the Arabian Sea, India's government said Tuesday.

But the principal port of Mumbai — India's economic hub — will remain closed until at least Wednesday because of the nearby spill and 300 cargo containers that fell off the ship and pose a 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 Saturday. The MSC Chitra ran aground and has been listing 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.

He said the MSC Chitra, which is still tilted steeply in the water, was unlikely to sink because it ran aground on a large rock and the water in that area wasn't deep enough for the ship to submerge.

The Khalijia-II suffered lesser damage but details were not available. The cargo of both ships wasn't clear, including whether any of the contents were hazardous.

News reports Tuesday said the collision occurred because of a failure of radio communication between the ships.