An environmental disaster has been declared after an Italian-flagged ship spilled 6,000 barrels of oil in the Pacific Ocean on Saturday, in front of the La Pampilla refinery.
The government calls it the biggest ecological crisis in the country in recent times. According to the country’s environment ministry, an area equivalent to 174 hectares – around 270 football pitches – has been affected.
The refinery is operated by Spanish Repsol, which says that Peruvian authorities did not warn of the tsunami before it hit while the ship was loading oil over to the refinery.
President Pedro Castillo says a committee will be set up to find ways to deal with the crisis, in line with national guidelines for nature and environmental protection.
Prime Minister Mirtha Vásquez says Repsol has promised to present a plan for cleaning up the spill, involving local fishermen and delivering food to affected families.
Fishermen from the Ventanilla district north of Lima demonstrated on Wednesday outside the Pampfilla refinery, demanding compensation.
– How are we going to live now? That is our concern. We have lost the source of work and we do not know when this will end, Miguel Angell Nunez, who led the demonstration, told AFP
Many of the fishermen live from hand to mouth, and some fear that they may become unemployed for several years. Around 1,500 fishermen work in the affected area.
– This disaster will not last for one or four months. It will last for several years, fisherman Roberto Carlos Espinoza told AFP.
Dead animals and closed beaches
According to Vásquez, the UN will also send an expert group to help Peru with the oil spill. People are now forbidden to visit the 21 beaches for health reasons.
Wildlife is hard hit by the mud. In recent days, many dead animals have been found covered in oil, including sea lions and penguins.
The tsunami also led to two deaths in the country. Two women drowned when they were taken by big waves.