Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Mystery barge caused damage at Sipadan Island?

Kota Kinabalu: A giant barge has apparently flattened corals at Sipadan's legendary Dropoff Point inflicting "incalculable" damage, according to a report containing pictures of what are believed to be the damaged section posted on the Internet by FiNS Magazine Associate editors Andrea & Antonella Ferrari.

"I am sitting here with tears of rage and frustration in my eyes like many other fellow divers today (16 May) after having witnessed a major and unexpected man-made disaster which struck Sipadan's reefs last night," Andrea said.

"An enormous steel barge carrying thousands of tonnes of course gravel, sand, steel tubes, iron mesh, prime movers, a large bulldozer and gigantic crane - which had been incredibly allowed to anchor right in front of Sipadan's legendary dropoff before unloading its cargo on the supposedly protected island - was pushed against the reef by wind, ending up beached on the island like some monstrous whale," Andrea reported.

"In the process of being beached, the barge scraped clean thousands of years of nature's delicate work between the old pier and Barracuda Point," he claimed.

"The barge's flat hull wiped corals away·eaving in its wake hundreds of square metres of unnaturally flat limestone, and veritable wall of corals and debris piled up against the beach," they further reported.

Andrea, author of several books such as Malaysia - A Diving Guide, Malaysia - An Underwater Paradise and A Diver's Guide To Underwater Malaysia Macrolife, said he and his wife had been diving in Sabah's spectacular reefs we for the past 15 years.

"Such is the unquestionable love we feel for this country that we're planning to relocate here soon to live among Sabah's lovely wildlife," he said.

Acknowledging that accidents at sea can and do happen, Andrea said he had a few questions he wished could be answered:

Why was that enormous, slow-moving barge allowed to anchor at Sipadan?

What was it doing in the first place when divers aren't even allowed to wear gloves in order to avoid damaging fragile corals? Why are enormous quantities of building materials being unloaded on Sipadan? What is being built there? And, if anything had to be built, why not use wood, as has always been the case until now?

He said such large amounts of building material surely necessitate the cutting down of many trees and the clearing of a large swathe of the island's forest.

Where were the staff who were stationed on the island when this happened?

Source: Daily Express

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