Hurricane Omar sinks 50 vessels

Hurricane Omar sank about 50 boats as it passed through the island of St Croix in the US Virgin Islands late last week. Local officials, worried that diesel from the breached vessels could pollute Christianstead Harbor in St Croix, have shut down access to Schooner Bay Channel.

Of the 50 boats that were sunk by Omar, 30 were in Christiansted Harbor. The vessels included houseboats, catamarans, yachts and sailboats that were ripped from moorings and marinas. The hurricane caught many local boaters off guard because they did not take the storm seriously, Kim Jones of the St Croix Yacht Club told the Associated Press.

'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.' Owners are siphoning thousands of gallons of fuel from their boats so they can be removed without further spills.'

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.

All port operations remained suspended in Schooner Bay Channel, pending further assessments by the US Coast Guard. On Friday, the Coast Guard opened the port of Frederiksted, Limetree Bay, HOVENSA, the Container Port, Krause Lagoon Channel, and Cross Channel in St Croix. But all of the island's beaches have been deemed unsafe because of the fuel seeping from the boats.

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

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