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Four companies accused of huge oil spill in Patagonia

Saturday, December 29th 2007 - 20:00 UTC
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The government of the province of Chubut, Argentine Patagonia, formally accused before a court of justice several oil corporations for the crude spill which washed along four kilometers of the provincial coast damaging rich marine resources and limiting tourist industry prospects.

Chubut province named on Friday several corporations, particularly Terminales Maritimas Patagonias, (Termap), which operates an offshore oil loading platform north of Comodoro Rivadavia where the spill originally occurred but was not reported to local authorities, said Environment minister Monica Raimundo. Local authorities suspect the oil spill occurred several days ago when the loading of a tanker, but the first signals of the disaster were reported on Wednesday by residents from Caleta Córdoba, a small fishing village. Ms Raimundo warned that another oil slick, several kilometers long, was sighted out in the sea, but could easily reach the coastline if winds change. "The overall spill is made up of several slicks, two to three kilometers wide along a total extension of approximately forty kilometers", reported the local daily "El Chubut". The corporations formally accused of the incident are Repsol-YPF, Sociedad Internacional Petrolera (Sipetrol, from Chile) and Pan American Energy Iberica that jointly hold the majority package of Termap. Termap was ordered to present the registry of vessels operating at the platform during the last ten days, while a Crisis committee organized from Buenos Aires with Chubut authorities works reviewing satellite images. The oil slick extends along a coastline rich in mollusks, shell fish, sea birds and which in summer months attracts thousands of tourists. Besides it's an area with beaches that took years to clear and clean up following decades of oil exploitation with virtually no environmental control or limits. Reports from Caleta Cordoba indicate that over a hundred people, (government personnel, environmentalists and volunteers) organized in special crews are clearing the contaminated area and have rescued over 60 sea birds covered in oil. However an estimated 500 have died. "Unfortunately there's no other way to address the disaster but manually, this means shovels, buckets and cleaning birds one by one", said Coast Guard officer Víctor Hugo Burquet. Patagonia is home to penguins and many rare bird species. The president of a local citizens group, Rene Tula, described the situation as a "serious tragedy".

Categories: Health & Science, Argentina.

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