Greece's merchant marine minister said Tuesday that human error contributed to the sinking of a cruise ship off a resort island in the Aegean Sea last week, forcing the evacuation of nearly 1,600 people.
Two French tourists are feared drowned after the Sea Diamond hit submerged rocks just off Santorini island on Thursday, causing the ship to take on water and eventually sink.
Six crew members of the Greek-flagged ship, including the captain and chief mate, have been charged with negligence. The captain has told investigators he was caught unawares by a sea current that swept his vessel onto the well-marked and charted rocks, minutes before it was due to dock.
The Greek crew members have been released from police custody, but are still on Santorini, officials said. If upheld in court, the charges carry a maximum five-year sentence.
On Tuesday, Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis said that "most definitely there was human error" involved in the accident, without elaborating.
He also praised the rescue effort, saying it worked "perfectly," despite some passengers complaining of an insufficient supply of life vests, little guidance from crew members and being forced into a steep climb down rope-ladders to safety.
"Our attention is now focused on the question of the environment ... and, of course, to find the missing two," Kefaloyiannis said.
A robot submarine began filming the wreck Tuesday in an attempt to locate the missing tourists and the vessel's data recorder, while workers tried to clean up fuel that seeped into the sea from the ship's tanks.
The submarine was to take footage of the position of the vessel — which lies an estimated 230-430 feet beneath the surface on a steep incline — and determine its stability before divers are allowed to enter the wreck.
The missing pair — Frenchman Jean-Christophe Allain, 45, and his 16-year-old daughter Maud — are thought to have been trapped in their flooded cabin. Allain's wife narrowly escaped.
More than 50 tons of the ship's fuel leaked after the sinking, some of which has washed ashore.
An estimated 430 tons of oil are still inside the ship, threatening an environmental disaster at the onset of the busy summer season on Santorini — a volcanic island with spectacular cliffs that is one of Greece's most popular tourist destinations.
Workers collected oil from a pebble beach near the port on Tuesday, while trucks were siphoning oil from the island's harbor. Ships were also facilitating the cleanup, while floating booms were deployed to contain the spillage.
Kefaloyiannis said the oil spill "is under control."
A total of 1,156 passengers and 391 crew were traveling on the four-day Aegean Sea cruise, and included groups from the U.S., Canada, Britain, Spain, France, Australia and the Dominican Republic.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16