Syrian chemicals transferred to US ship
GIOIA TAURO, Italy: The international operation to destroy Syrian chemical weapons entered its final phase on Wednesday, with the stockpile being loaded onto a US military ship equipped to dispose of them.
Hundreds of tons of mustard gas and ingredients to make Sarin nerve gas were transferred from a Danish freighter in the southern Italian port of Gioia Tauro amid tight security.
An exclusion zone was set up around the port in the Reggio Calabria region as the vessels moored stern-to-stern, and the containers were moved from one ship to the other by crane and a vast climbing platform.
“For now everything is going well. We have put in a huge amount of effort… to manage the transfer operation smoothly,” Italy’s Environment Minister Gian Luca Galletti said on Twitter as he watched over the delicate procedure.
The operation is being overseen by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPAC). Safety officers in the area are constantly monitoring for the possible release of dangerous toxins into the amid protests by Italian environmentalists about the “poison ship.”
Officials at the scene said between six and seven containers were being loaded onto the MV Cape Ray per hour, with 62 of the 78 on board by late afternoon. Once the chemical agents have been safely transferred, they will be destroyed in international waters.