Underwater footage of the sunken ship that could contain nuclear waste
A shipwreck apparently containing toxic waste is being investigated by authorities in Italy amid claims that it was deliberately sunk by the mafia.
An informant from the Calabrian mafia said the ship was one of a number he blew up as part of an illegal operation to bypass laws on toxic waste disposal.
The sunken vessel has been found 30km (18 miles) off the south-west of Italy.
The informant said it contained “nuclear” material. Officials said it would be tested for radioactivity.
Murky pictures taken by a robot camera show the vessel intact and alongside it are a number of yellow barrels.
Labels on them say the contents are toxic.
The informant said the mafia had muscled in on the lucrative business of radioactive waste disposal.
But he said that instead of getting rid of the material safely, he blew up the vessel out at sea, off the Calabrian coast.
He also says he was responsible for sinking two other ships containing toxic waste.
Experts are now examining samples taken from the wreck.
An official said that if the samples proved to be radioactive then a search for up to 30 other sunken vessels believed scuttled by the mafia would begin immediately.
For years there have been rumours that the mafia was sinking ships with nuclear and other waste on board, as part of a money-making racket.
The environmental campaign group Greenpeace and others have compiled lists over the past few decades of ships that have disappeared off the coast of Italy and Greece.
Processing waste is highly specialised and is supposed to be an industry where security is the top priority.
If tests show that there is nuclear material on the seabed it will prove that the mafia has moved into its dirtiest business yet.
By Duncan Kennedy
Wednesday, 16 September 2009 09:10 UK
Source: BBC News
Italy finds wreck of toxic waste ship sunk by mafia
ROME (Reuters) – Italian authorities have found the wreck of a ship sunk by the mafia with 180 barrels of toxic waste on board, one of more than 30 such vessels believed to lie off Italy’s southern coast, officials said on Tuesday.
Following a lead from a mafia turncoat, investigators used a remote-controlled submersible to film the 110-meter (360-feet) long vessel on Saturday, around 28 km (18 miles) from the coast of the southwestern Italian region of Calabria.
The ship, which officials say may even contain radioactive elements, lay in 500 meters (yards) of water in the Tyrrhenian sea. TV images showed at least one barrel had fallen from its damaged hull and lay empty on the seabed.
“There could be problems of toxins and heavy metals … this is an issue for the whole international community,” said Silvestro Greco, head of Calabria’s environment agency.
The ship’s location was revealed by Francesco Fonti, an ex-member of Calabria’s feared ‘Ndrangheta crime group, who confessed to using explosives to sink this vessel and two others.
Greco said investigators believed there were 32 ships carrying toxic waste sunk by the mafia since the introduction of tighter environmental legislation in the 1980s made illegal waste disposal a lucrative business for crime groups.
“The Mediterranean is 0.7 percent of the world’s seas. If in this tiny portion there are more than 30 (toxic waste) shipwrecks, imagine what there could be elsewhere,” he said.
(Reporting by Antonio Denti and Daniel Flynn; Editing by Louise Ireland)
Tue Sep 15, 2009 8:57am EDT