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Ecuador takes emergency steps to contain Galapagos oil spill

December 23, 2019

Ecuadorean officials say they have taken urgent measures to stem the impact of a diesel spill that occurred when an oil barge sank. Concerns are growing for the islands' highly delicate ecosystem.

A flightless cormorant sits on her nest among trash on the shore of Isabela Island in the Galapagos Archipelago
Image: Getty Images/AFP/R. Buendia

Oil spill in Galapagos Islands

An oil spill in the Galapagos Islands has been brought under control after Ecuador activated emergency protocol to reduce the environmental impact, authorities announced late Sunday evening.

A ship carrying 2,500 liters (600 gallons) of oil sank near the historic islands, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, on Sunday.

Map showing the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador

The ecosystem on the islands, famous for helping naturalist Charles Darwin develop the theory of evolution after his visit in 1835, is highly fragile.

Read more: Tourism: Boon or threat for the Galapagos?

"The situation is under control, and a series of actions have been deployed to mitigate the possible effects," the presidential communications office said in a statement.

A crane collapsed onto an oil barge in a port off San Cristobal Island on Sunday, destabilizing the vessel and causing it to sink, local media reported. Crew members jumped from the ship into the ocean to save themselves. One person was injured.

Emergency protocols activated

Galapagos National Park authorities and the Ecuadorian Navy implemented emergency measures to contain the spill, setting up protective barriers and oil absorbent clothes around the oil patch.

Galapagos minister Norman Wray said personnel were attempting to recover the oil and that the electric generator would be replaced "as soon as possible." Isabela Island, the largest in the Galapagos, currently faces energy rationing.

The same barge, which transports materials to and from the islands, had similarly sunk in a different port in February 2018 after the vessel was destabilized.

The Galapagos Islands are made up of around 130 islands located approximately 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) east of mainland Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean.

Iguanas, giant tortoises, and a wide variety of birds are among the rare animals and plants that inhabit the archipelago.

Steinmeier visits Galapagos

kp/mm (AFP, dpa)

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