The oil slick from a tanker that sank off the Greek island of Salamis on Sunday (September 10) has now reached some of the capital's most popular beaches. Greek authorities have appealed to swimmers to stay away from the beaches in the southern suburbs of Athens after thick black oil began washing up.

Athens oil spill
Workers clean the thick black oil that washed up on Faliro beachAlkis Konstantinidis/Reuters
Athens oil spill
Oil washes up on beach in Faliro, a suburb of AthensAlkis Konstantinidis/Reuters

A thick oily tide covers stretches of the Athens Riviera, and the usually packed beaches were empty, their sun loungers devoid of customers. Fotis Yiamanis, a resident of the seafront neighbourhood of Faliro, where Greeks enjoy morning swims several months of the years called it a "catastrophe". Yannis Trikaminas, who lives in Piraeus, said: "You can't go near now. It stinks of oil, who's going to go in there to swim? Look at the boats there, they are black from the tar."

Slicks were reported at beaches in the suburbs of Glyfada and Piraeus. Glyfada Mayor Giorgos Papanikolaou says municipal workers have set up floating booms offshore and are using chemicals to try to dissolve the oil.

Athens oil spill
Black oil covers the sea and a beach near Athens, five days after the sinking of a tankerAngelos Tzortzinis/AFP
Athens oil spill
A man tries to clean up oil from a beach at Agios Kosmas in Athens' southern suburbsLouisa Gouliamaki/AFP
Athens oil spill
People look at a beach covered with oil in Faliro, a suburb of AthensAlkis Konstantinidis/Reuters
Athens oil spill
Black oil floats on the sea at a beach in the Athens regionAngelos Tzortzinis/AFP
Athens oil spill
A worker's boots are covered in oil on the beach in the Athens suburb of FaliroAlkis Konstantinidis/Reuters
Athens oil spill
Workers clean a beach covered with oil in Faliro, outside AthensAlkis Konstantinidis/Reuters
Athens oil spill
A worker's shovel is covered with oil on a beach in the Athens suburb of FaliroAlkis Konstantinidis/Reuters
Athens oil spill
Picture of an oily wave washing up on a beach near AthensAngelos Tzortzinis/AFP
Athens oil spill
Municipal workers and volunteers set up barriers to limit the pollution on a beach in the Athens regionLouisa Gouliamaki/AFP
Salamina Greece island oil tanker spill
Map showing the location of Salamis (or Salamina) island, near AthensGoogle

The 45-year-old Agia Zoni II tanker sank while anchored off the coast of Salamis (also known as Salamina) island, just off Greece's main port of Piraeus. It was carrying 2,200 tons of fuel oil and 370 tons of marine gas oil.

Salamina Greece island oil tanker spill
A bird covered in oil that leaked from a sunken tanker tries to stay afloatGiorgos Moutafis/Reuters
Athens oil spill
A boat floats on polluted water on the coast of the Greek island of Salamis, where the Agia Zoni II tanker sankMilos Bicanski/Getty Images
Salamina Greece island oil tanker spill
A boom is used to contain the crude oil to the beach on the island of SalamisAngelos Tzortzinis/AFP
Salamina Greece island oil tanker spill
Crude oil covers the sea off a beach on Salamis islandAngelos Tzortzinis/AFP
Salamina Greece island oil tanker spill
Oil that leaked from a tanker that sank is seen on a beach on the island of SalamisGiorgos Moutafis/Reuters

Greece's shipping minister Panagiotis Kouroublis said divers have sealed the ship's cargo holds and work is due to start on pumping out the remaining fuel. He also said he would step down if prime minister Alexis Tsipras asked him to: "I am at the prime minister's disposal," he told Parapolitika radio.

The cause of the sinking is not known. The tanker, which had set off on Saturday from an oil refinery near Athens, had been anchored by an islet near Salamina, about 25 kilometres west of the capital, when it began to leak, according to the Greek coast guard. The tanker's two crew members were rescued by the coastguard and taken to hospital, from where they were later released.