Picture: REUTERS/ SERGEI KARPUKHIN
Picture: REUTERS/ SERGEI KARPUKHIN

Quito — Ecuador officials announced on Sunday that a fuel spill in the Galapagos Islands, caused when a barge sank carrying 600 gallons of diesel fuel, was “under control”.

Authorities had activated emergency protocols earlier on Sunday to contain the environmental impact of the spill in the Galapagos archipelago, a Unesco world heritage site that is home to one of the most fragile ecosystems on the planet.

“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, adding that the response operation had “controlled” the spill.

The accident, in which one person was injured, occurred in a port on San Cristobal Island, the eastern-most island in the chain, when a crane collapsed while loading a container holding an electric generator onto a barge. The falling container destabilised the ship, which was carrying 600 gallons of diesel fuel, causing it to sink. The generator and the loading crane were also submerged.

The Emergency Operations Committee took “immediate action to reduce the environmental risk” in the so-called Enchanted Islands. Personnel from the Galapagos National Park, the official nature reserve authority, and the Ecuadorean Navy set up spill containment barriers and oil absorbent cloths around the fuel patch.

Galapagos minister Norman Wray told reporters that work was under way to recover the diesel. He also said the generator, which was intended to supply energy on Isabela Island, and the barge would be replaced “as soon as possible”.

Isabela Island, the largest island, is facing energy rationing. Wray assured reporters that food supply levels in the Galapagos would remain normal despite the loss of the barge.

The same barge, which is used to transport fuel and construction materials to the Galapagos, had sunk previously in February 2018 due to a weight imbalance, in a port on the Guayas River.

The Galapagos Islands, located 1,000 km east of mainland Ecuador, helped English naturalist Charles Darwin develop the theory of evolution in the 19th century.

AFP