A decommissioned aircraft carrier has been sunk by Brazil in the Atlantic ocean even after several environmental groups expressed worries that the aging warship was loaded with extremely dangerous toxic materials.

According to a statement by Brazil's Navy, the “planned and controlled sinking occurred late in the afternoon” on Friday, some 350 km (220 miles) off the Brazilian coast in the Atlantic Ocean, in an area with an “approximate depth of 5,000 meters [16,000 feet].”

Brazilian authorities attempted in vain to find a port willing to welcome the vessel "Sao Paulo" before deciding to scuttle the six-decade-old aircraft carrier, Al Jazeera reported.

Environmentalists criticized the decision even after defense officials declared that they would sink the ship in the "safest area".

They claim that the warship was loaded with tonnes of asbestos, heavy metals, and other toxic substances that could leach into the water and contaminate the marine food chain.

The Basel Action Network had called on Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who took office last month pledging to reverse surging environmental destruction under far-right ex-President Jair Bolsonaro, to immediately halt the “dangerous” plan to scuttle the ship.

Brazil's intended sinking of the Sao Paulo was dubbed as possibly being a "state-sponsored environmental crime" by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, a collaboration of environmental, labor, and human rights organizations.

Built-in the late 1950s in France, whose navy sailed the aircraft carrier for 37 years as the Foch, the warship had earned a place in 20th-century naval history.

The 873-foot (266-meter) aircraft carrier was purchased by Brazil in 2000 for $12 million. The ship's downfall was hastened in 2005 when a fire broke out on board.

The Turkish company Sok Denizcilik was authorized by Brazil last year to disassemble Sao Paulo for scrap metal. But in August, Turkish environmental authorities stopped the plan just as a tugboat was about to tow it into the Mediterranean Sea.

The ship's disposal plan "represented an unprecedented attempt" by Brazil to dispose of the ship safely through "environmentally sound recycling," according to a statement released by the Brazilian military ministry.

Brazil then brought the aircraft carrier back home but did not allow it into port, citing the “high risk” to the environment.

According to the defense ministry statement, the area selected for the sinking was identified by the Navy’s Hydrography Centre, which considered it the “safest” location as it was outside Brazil’s exclusive economic zone, environmental protection areas, free from documented submarine cable and was at a depth greater than 3,000 meters (9,840ft).

Representation Image Frigate Battleship Canon Deck refaldodsamudra/Pixabay

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