Brazil sinks French aircraft carrier

Brazil sinks French aircraft carrier

Brazil has sunk a decommissioned aircraft carrier despite environmental groups saying the former French ship was packed with toxic materials.

The planned and controlled sinking occurred late in the afternoon on Friday, 350 km off the Brazilian coast in the Atlantic Ocean, in an area with an approximate depth of 5,000 meters 16,000 feet, the navy said in a statement.

The decision to scuttle the six-decade old S o Paulo was announced Thursday after Brazilian authorities tried to find a port willing to welcome it.

The defence officials said they would sink the vessel but environmentalists criticised the decision, saying the aircraft carrier contained tons of asbestos, heavy metals and other toxic materials that could leach into the water and pollute the marine food chain.

The Basel Action Network called for Brazilian President Luiz In cio Lula da Silva to reverse the surging environmental destruction when he took office last month to immediately halt the dangerous plan.

The group accused Brazil of having violated three international treaties on the environment by sinking the ship, which the NGOs said could cause incalculable damage to marine life and coastal communities, and caused a joint statement with Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd on Friday.

Other environmentally responsible measures could have been adopted but the importance of protecting the oceans, which are vital for the life of the planet, was treated with negligence, said Leandro Ramos, director of programs for Greenpeace Brazil.

Brazilian authorities said it was better to sink the ship on purpose rather than allow it to sink spontaneously on its own.

The navy said that it had chosen a spot for sinking that considered the security of navigation and the environment and the mitigation of the impacts on public health, fishing activities and ecosystems. A judge overruled a last minute legal bid to stop it, saying that an unplanned scuttling could be worse for the environment than the controlled sinking, local media reported.

He called the situation tragic and regrettable, built in France in the late 1950s, whose navy sailed it for 37 years, as the Foch aircraft carrier took part in France's first nuclear tests in the Pacific in the 1960s, and deployed in Africa, the Middle East and the former Yugoslavia from the 1970s to 1990s.

Brazil bought the 266 metre aircraft carrier for $12 m in 2000.

In 2005 a fire broke out onboard, accelerating the ageing ship's decline.

Last year Brazil authorised Turkish firm Sok Denizcilik to dismantle the S o Paulo for scrap metal. In August, Turkish environmental authorities blocked the plan, as a tugboat was about to tow it into the Mediterranean Sea.

Brazil brought the aircraft carrier back, but did not allow it into port, citing the high risk to the environment.