Vandals are thought to have opened the cisterns at an Italian oil refinery, allowing some 2.5 million liters of oil to flow into the Lambro River. Now the slick has reached Italy's most important river, the Po.
Dead ducks have been found floating atop the oil slick
Environmental activists warned of a pending disaster in Italy on Wednesday as a massive oil slick made its way from a small river in northern Italy into the country's longest and most important river.
A spokesperson for Italy's largest environmental organization Legambiente called the spill "an unparalleled ecological disaster" and said the consequences would be present in the ecosystem for a long time.
Italian officials said the spill was caused by intentional sabotage at an oil depot, where vandals opened the cisterns, allowing some 2.5 million liters (660,000 gallons) of oil to flow into the Lambro River.
The cisterns "were opened by someone who was familiar with the plant and knew how to operate them," Cinzia Secchi, a spokeswoman for the local government in Milan told AP. The northern Italian city is connected to the Po River through a series of channels.
From bad to worse
After overtaking three separate barriers created to obstruct the flow, the stream of sludge spilled into the Po. The Po, which runs through several important Italian cities, including Turin and Piacenza, is a source of irrigation for the country.
Environmental experts warn of impending havoc if the spill is not soon contained. The Po River Valley is an important agricultural region in Italy, and the area is home to a diverse array of birds and wildlife.
Editor: Nancy Isenson