British cruise ship crashes into one of world's most spectacular coral reefs

Officials say 'irreparable damage' has been caused to the 'underwater Amazon' 

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The Independent Online

A British-owned cruise ship carrying hundreds of tourists has crashed into one of the world’s most spectacular coral reefs, sparking outrage from locals. 

The 4,290-tonne Caledonian Sky caused "irreparable damage" in Raja Ampat, an idyllic island chain in the west of Indonesia’s Papua province.  

The ship, owned by British company Noble Caledonia, was hosting a bird-watching trip on earlier this month when it veered off course, running aground during low tide and ploughing into the coral. 

Roughly 1,600 square meters of the “underwater Amazon” is thought to have been damaged in the incident. 

Ruben Sauyai, a local diving instructor, told the BBC he was in “tears” after seeing the ruined reefs. 

“The damage is huge and acute. It could take 10 to 100 years to repair it," he said. "Some people work as fishermen or farmers, but mostly we work in the tourism sector.”

Noble Caledonia described the incident as “unfortunate”. 

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A tugboat was deployed to refloat the ship, but that “damaged the reef even more”, according to Ricardo Tapilatu, the head of the official evaluation team. 

He said he thought the company should pay up to $1.92 million (£1.58 million) in compensation.

In a separate interview with the environmental science website, Mongabay, he said that the process to repair the coral could take up to 10 years. 

petition has been launched urging Noble Caledonia to fund and help repair the reef. 

Stay Raja Ampat, a local tourism promoter, took to Facebook to express his outrage, alongside images of the stricken cruise liner. 

Another Facebook user said: “Unbelievable! I hope these people get fined billions for the irreparable damage they are causing.”

Noble Caledonia said it was “firmly committed to protection of the environment, which is why it is imperative that the reasons for it are fully investigated, understood and any lessons learned incorporated in operating procedures.”

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