Friday, May 27

In Peru, vacationers have deserted oil-stained beaches

In the middle of the austral summer, no one bathes on the beach of the seaside resort of Ancon, not far from the capital Lima: since the oil spill which sullied the coasts of central Peru, cleaning brigades have replaced holidaymakers .

“High tides cause oil to come onto the beach at night (…) the tide deposits the oil on the shore, we take advantage of this to remove it from the sea and remove the sand that is impregnated with it”, explains AFP Martin Martinez, of the NGO Amaac Peru, who supervises the cleaning operations on this beach.

For the past week, the Peruvian coasts north of Lima have been stained with oil that spilled into the sea during the process of unloading crude from a tanker at the La Pampilla refinery, owned by the Spanish company Repsol.

More than 6,000 barrels of crude spilled into the sea and now sully at least 18 km2.

From now on, the only occupants of the beach of Ancon, which stretches over two kilometers, are a hundred people hard at work trying to clean up the place.

Attending are military personnel, personnel employed by the refinery, and volunteers from Amaac and other NGOs.

“It’s the first time I’ve come to help with this type of disaster,” Estefani Garcia, a 23-year-old student, told AFP, wearing gloves and wearing protective clothing.

With other volunteers, she deposits shovelfuls of soiled sand on large tarpaulins which are then transported to the top of the beach, then evacuated on trucks to toxic waste depots.

At the same time, a mechanical shovel is raising a wall of sand to prevent the contaminated sand that has already been moved from being washed away again by the tides.

“It’s a problem that requires everyone’s help,” pleads Lino Merino, 26, appealing for goodwill when cleaning the beach could take at least two weeks.

While a hundred artisanal fishermen demonstrated Thursday outside the gates of the refinery to demand compensation, the merchants of the seaside resort are also angry. The holidays of the austral summer bring them the bulk of their income.

“Until Sunday, there were a lot of people. The oil spill arrived on Monday and since then no one has come to swim,” regrets to AFP Richard Gutierrez, 48, who runs a snack bar near the beach.

The government has called the oil spill an “ecological disaster” and Peruvian justice has opened an investigation.

For its part, the refinery rejects the responsibility for the maritime conditions, ensuring that the Peruvian authorities had not issued an alert on a possible strengthening of the swell due to the volcanic eruption in Tonga.

The Tonga Islands suffered a particularly powerful volcanic eruption on January 15 which caused a widespread tsunami, flooding the coasts of the United States as far as Chile and Japan.

In Peru, two women drowned on a beach in the north of the country due to “abnormal waves”, according to the local National Emergency Operations Center.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.