February 4, 1997 in Nation/World

Freighter Rams Fragile Florida Reef

Compiled From Wire Services

A wayward, 600-foot freighter ran aground on North America’s only living coral reef Monday, less than a week after the state approved a marine sanctuary to keep big ships miles away.

It was not immediately clear how much damage may have been caused by the Contship Houston, which crunched onto a shoal near Sugarloaf Key, about 15 miles from Key West. The reef is two miles inside the newly approved Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

The fragile coral reef, which took thousands of years to form, is the world’s third largest after those off Australia and Belize. It’s a prime attraction for many of the keys’ 1.5 million yearly visitors.

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