A picture taken on July 21, 2016 shows UK nuclear submarine HMS Ambush moored in the port of Gibraltar during an unscheduled stop. ©AFP
Spain has called for “urgent” answers from authorities in London after a British nuclear submarine collided with a merchant vessel off the coast of disputed Gibraltar.
In a Thursday statement, the Spanish Foreign Ministry said it “has asked the British embassy in Madrid for urgent explanations over the extent of the breakdown and all relevant information regarding the circumstances of this incident.”
An HMS Ambush submarine was carrying out a training exercise when it collided with a vessel and was forced to duck in Gibraltar located on Spain’s southern tip.
Britain’s Ministry of Defense attempted to allay fears, saying the nuclear plant on board the submarine, which was equipped with torpedoes and cruise missiles, was undamaged.
However, Antonio Munoz, a prominent activist from environmental group Ecologistas en Accion in Spain, said more information was needed amid fears of a potential leak in the ocean surrounding Gibraltar.
“We don’t know exactly where the collision happened, where the other vessel is, whether the vessel that collided with the submarine was a freighter, an oil tanker... We don’t know whether there was a leak from the vessel,” Munoz said.
Spaniards have voiced opposition to the presence of British nuclear submarines in Gibraltar in the past.
A boarder post is pictured backdropped by the “Rock” in Gibraltar on June 24, 2016. ©AFP
The latest accident revived memories of another submarine incident at the turn of the century, when Britain’s HMS Tireless was forced to dock in Gibraltar for repairs for nearly a year after a crack was found in a cooling pipe near its nuclear reactor. Its presence caused outrage in Gibraltar and southern Spain.
The incident also threatened a diplomatic crisis between Madrid and Londan as the sovereignty of Gibraltar remains a hot-button issue within Spain, especially in the wake of Britain’s decision to leave the EU.
Gibraltar, with a population of over 30,000, is located on the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula and has an area of 6.7 square kilometers (2.6 square miles).
The territory was ceded to Britain in 1713 as part of the Treaty of Utrecht. But Spain over the past decades has made it clear that it wants Gibraltar back.
The territorial row escalated after Britain’s decision to leave the European Union in June.
Following the referendum in the UK, Madrid said Brexit had opened up “new possibilities on Gibraltar not seen for a very long time.”
Spain’s renewed claims to sovereignty over Gibraltar prompted London to dispatch the HMS Ambus to the disputed territory in late June.

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