The eruption of a Tonga volcano sent “violent” waves across the Pacific Ocean, causing a boat carrying oil about 6,200 miles away to capsize and spilling thousands of barrels into Peruvian waters.
Dozens of fishermen have protested outside Peru’s main oil refinery, La Pampilla, which processes about 117,000 barrels a day and is managed by the Spanish company Repsol.
A ship under the Italian flag was loading the oil into La Pampilla when strong waves moved the boat and caused it to spill its cargo into the sea.
Pictures show island covered in ash from the volcano Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai
Repsol said Sunday it was caused by “wave violence”.
Three people have died in Tonga, including a British national, and most of the houses on its smaller islands have been “completely destroyed” by the tsunami that followed Saturday’s underwater volcanic eruption.
In Peru, two people drowned from a beach and there were reports of minor injuries from New Zealand to Santa Cruz, California.
‘6,000 barrels were wasted’
Peru’s environment minister, Ruben Ramirez, told reporters that an estimated 6,000 barrels of oil were spilled in the area, which is rich in marine biodiversity.
On Cavero Beach, northwest of the facility, the waves covered the sand with a shiny black liquid, and small dead crustaceans were visible.
Fifty workers from companies working for Repsol removed the oil-stained sand with shovels, while workers dressed in white suits collected the spilled oil with plastic bottles cut in half.
Jose Llacuachaqui, another local fishing leader who witnessed the cleanup, said the workers collected the oil that had reached the sand, but not the crude oil that was in the seawater.
Houses on three of Tonga’s smaller islands “completely destroyed”
“It’s prey, kill, all the eggs, all the marine species,” he said.
Protesters largely ignored
Protesters demanded to speak with representatives from the refinery, but were largely ignored.
“There is a massacre of all the hydrobiological biodiversity,” said Roberto Espinoza, head of the local fishermen.
“In the midst of a pandemic, with the sea feeding us because they do not have a contingency plan, they have just destroyed a base of biodiversity.”
Juan Carlos Riveros, biologist and scientific director of the Peru of Oceana – an organization dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans – said the species hardest hit by the spill included guano birds, gulls, terns, sea lions and dolphins.
“The spill also affects the main source of employment for artisan fishermen, as access to their traditional fishing grounds is limited or the target species becomes polluted or dies,” Riveros said.
“In the short term, mistrust of quality is created and the consumption of fisheries is discouraged, causing prices to fall and incomes to be reduced.”
Peru’s environmental assessment and enforcement agency estimates that 18,000 square meters of beach on Peru’s Pacific coast have been affected by the spill.
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