Peru’s beaches turn black after oil spill blamed on Tonga eruption

LIMA, January 17 – At least two kilometers of Peru’s central coast and two beaches have been stained by oil spilled by a dump ship rocked by waves caused by the eruption of a volcano in TongaEnvironment Minister Ruben Ramirez said Monday.

The ministry oversaw the cleanup of the area in the coastal district of Ventanilla, where the spill occurred on Sunday while unloading crude oil from the ship to supply the La Pampilla refinery, owned by Spanish company Repsol.

Earlier, the National Institute of Civil Defense (Indeci) and the Emergency Center of the Ministry of Energy and Mines said in a statement that the high tides recorded in Ventanilla, following the eruption of the volcano, had changed the process of unloading crude oil for the refinery.

“It is unfortunate. I see there is a serious impact on the coastal marine area. Initially two and a half kilometers (of damage) were reported, but now we see it has affected two beaches,” said Ramirez to reporters.

Cleanup crews work to remove oil from a beach in the Peruvian province of Callao on January 17, 2022, after a spill occurred during the unloading process from the Italian-flagged tanker ‘Mare Doricum’ at the La Pampilla refinery caused by abnormal waves recorded after the volcanic eruption in Tonga.
AFP via Getty Images

Indeci said it had the spill under control, although cleanup work continued. He did not say how much oil was spilled, but the Environmental Assessment and Enforcement Agency (OEFA) said it had opened an investigation to determine who was responsible for the spill.

The Pampilla refinery said in a statement that Saturday’s “violence of the waves” due to the eruption of the volcano generated the “limited spill” of oil as a ship was unloading.

An undersea volcano off the coast of Tonga erupted on Saturday, triggering tsunami warnings and evacuation orders in Japan and causing huge waves across several islands and regions in the South Pacific.

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