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Environmental Emergency Declared in Peru After Oil Spill Pollutes 21 Beaches

oil spill in peru
Oil spill on the coast of the Chacraymar Beach, Peru, as a result of the abnormal tide caused by the volcanic eruption in Tonga. Photo Credit- Mindef Perú/ Twitter

The consequences of the eruption and the subsequent tsunami in Tonga have also been felt on the other side of the Pacific, in Peru, where it has caused an oil spill that is affecting two protected natural areas. The Government of Peru declared an ‘environmental emergency’ after announcing that 21 beaches on the Pacific coast were contaminated by an oil spill at a refinery run by Spain-based Repsol.

The UN resident coordinator, Igor Garafulic, met with the authorities recently and guaranteed the support of his entire team in the fight against the ecological disaster. The UN expert group will arrive in Peru in the coming days and advise the authorities on the management and coordination of the response. Likewise, it will carry out an approach of effective actions to reduce the risk of future disasters in the country.

Images on social media and TV showed blackened beaches and dozens of dead seabirds drenched in oil, among them the rare Humboldt penguin, in an area considered a marine biodiversity hotspot.

Peru’s Agency for Environmental Assessment and Enforcement (OEFA) said in a statement that as of Thursday the area affected included 1.7 million square meters of land and 1.2 million square meters in the sea.

Repsol said in a statement on Thursday that a team of divers was exploring underwater damage from the spill, and said it had deployed more than 2,500 meters of containment booms and 10 boats to recover oil from the sea.

“We regret not having adequately conveyed all our commitments and actions taken to address the impact generated by the oil spill in Ventanilla,” Repsol said

Peru’s prime minister, Mirtha Vásquez, told journalists on Wednesday that the Pampilla refinery, run by Repsol, “apparently” did not have a contingency plan for an oil spill. The country’s foreign ministry called on the company to “immediately compensate” for the damage caused by the spill on Saturday which had inflicted “serious harm to hundreds of fishermen’s families” and had “put in danger the flora and fauna” in two protected natural areas.

The refinery could face a fine of up to $34.5 million, Peru’s environment ministry said as prosecutors opened an investigation into the company for environmental contamination.

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