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State of emergency for Galapagos Islands after ship runs aground

A state of emergency has been put in place at the famous Galapagos Islands, a week after a cargo ship carrying hazardous materials became stranded. Fuel from the vessel has leaked into the pristine marine environment.

Ecuador's government put a state of emergency in place on Wednesday (local time) for the Galapagos Islands, authorities said. Fears there are growing that fuel leaking from the stranded vessel may place the fragile UNESCO World Heritage Site ecosystem at risk.

The state of emergency will apply for 180 days and includes the national park, the protected marine reserve and the archipelago, Ecuador's Environment Ministry wrote on its website.

The ship, Floreana, carrying more than 1,400 tons of cargo, including food and hazardous materials as well as 38,850 liters (10,000 gallons) of fuel, ran aground off the island of San Cristobal on January 28.

Some fuel has leaked into the surrounding water, but has been controlled by booms.

The ship, which is in the process of being refloated and removed, had its hull destroyed when it ran aground. The recovery process is expected to take two to four weeks.

Most of the hazardous materials, such as gas bottles and asphalt have been recovered and removed from the vessel, only the diesel remains on board.

This is the third instance of a ship running aground near the Islands in the past year.

In May last year, the ship Galapaface I, with nearly 72,000 liters of fuel and hazardous materials on board hit a rock, in November another supply ship succumbed to the same fate.

The Galapagos Islands, famous for the vast number of species and pristine environment, are located some 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) off Ecuador's Pacific coast.

jlw/sms (epd, AFP)

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