Disastrous Hurricane Omar Sinks 50 Vessels

Hurricane Omar over the Caribbean
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Caribbean Authorities were trying to contain oil spills after more than 50 boats sank or washed ashore during Hurricane Omar. Owners are siphoning thousands of gallons of fuel from their boats so they can be removed without further spills. In the US Virgin Islands the government is spending more than $1 million on cleanup costs.

About half the vessels lost their anchors, including houseboats, catamarans motor yachts and sailing boats. Others broke loose from their marina berths.

The hurricane caught many local boaters off-guard because they did not take the storm seriously, according to Kim Jones of the St Croix Yacht Club.

'It's devastating,' she said of the damage. 'That puts a brake into people getting into boating, which is such a way of life in the Caribbean. It's going to take a lot to rebound.'

Local officials, worried that diesel from the breached vessels could pollute Christianstead Harbor in St Croix, have shut down access to Schooner Bay Channel. Thirty of the vessels were in Christiansted Harbor.

'With each passing day, we are discovering more damaged boats that either sank or washed ashore,' said Carlos Farchette, VI Department of Planning and Natural Resources director of Environmental Enforcement. 'It's a real mess out there.'

Omar passed between St Martin and St Croix last week, where it knocked down more than 100 power lines and caused more than US$700,000 in damage. Thousands of residents are still without power.

By Friday, Omar had weakened to tropical storm status and posed no threat to land.