Distressed diesel ship off Tunisia risks environmental disaster. AFP
The merchant ship the Xelo, carrying "around 750 tonnes of diesel fuel", requested entry to Tunisian waters on Friday evening due to bad weather, the environment ministry said in a statement.
The Equatorial Guinea-flagged ship, headed from the Egyptian port of Damietta to the European island of Malta, began taking water around seven kilometres (over four miles) offshore in Tunisia's southeast Gulf of Gabes and the engine room was engulfed.
Tunisian authorities evacuated the seven-member crew from the ship, which "risks leaking", the ministry said.
The defence, interior, transport and customs ministries were working to avoid "a marine environmental disaster in the region and limit its impact", the environment ministry said, adding the situation was "under control".
AFP was unable to reach a spokesperson for further details.
The environment ministry said the ship's situation was "alarming" and that it had put in place an "urgent national intervention plan" to avoid a disaster.