SANTORINI, Greece -- Last month's sinking of the Sea Diamond off the coast of Santorini has not affected tourism here, operators on the island said, but they are concerned about the environmental threat the sunken vessel poses.

"We're very worried about the pollution," said Chara Abeliotou, a licensed guide with Santorini's tour guide union. "We expect that people coming from abroad might think, 'I'm not going to Santorini because it's not good for swimming' if they don't know the geography of the island and that all the beaches are on the other side of the island from where the ship is."

The Sea Diamond, a Louis Cruise Lines ship, sank off the coast here on April 6. The Cyprus-based line has been criticized by environmental groups, which say the line is dragging its feet on removing the fuel from the vessel.

Louis has contended that it is an extremely difficult process that takes much testing and careful implementation.

Visible on the water's surface from the cliffs between Santorini's ports of Fira and Athinios, a net encircles the sunken ship to catch any viscous fluid that escapes from it.

The ship sank off the coast when it collided with volcanic rock while trying to anchor in Santorini. Authorities are reviewing the ship's black box to determine what caused the accident in calm and well-charted waters, on a route with which the ship's captain was familiar.

Michael Zachariades, a salesman at a jewelry and art gallery in the town of Fira, also said he was concerned about the environment. He said that tourists separate the destination from a rare and isolated incident. "The island has nothing to do with the incident," he said. "Nobody can say Santorini is not nice. We are concerned about the environment first of all."

Zachariades said that the local response to the incident was valiant. "We are sea people," he said. "The local people did the utmost. In four hours the ship was evacuated. Everybody on small boats went to assist."

A hotelier in Fira, who chose to remain anonymous because "everybody knows everybody" on the island, said that while the incident had not caused any slowdown in tourism, the people of Santorini were upset that the company was moving slowly to remove the oil from the ship.

"The people of Santorini are angry," she said. "You can see the fuel in the water, and the cruise line is not doing anything about it. First they said two special ships are coming to take the fuel, but they are not coming. There is pressure from the government and from [environmental] groups, but not enough."

One tour operator in Fira said he was surprised at how little interest in the accident there had been from tourists.

"It's strange. In a month, no one has mentioned it," he said. "It's not near any beach. They don't ask about it."

To contact reporter Johanna Jainchill, send e-mail to [email protected].

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