Peru declared an environmental emergency Saturday to battle an oil spill caused by freak waves from a volcanic eruption in the South Pacific.
The stunningly powerful eruption on last Saturday of an undersea volcano near Tonga unleashed tsunami waves around the Pacific and as far away as the United States.
In Peru, the oil spill near Lima has fouled beaches, killed birds and harmed the fishing and tourism industries.
With its 90-day decree, the government said it plans “sustainable management” of 21 beaches tarred by 6,000 barrels of oil that spilled from a tanker ship unloading at a refinery last Saturday.
One aim of the decree is to better organise the various agencies and teams working in the aftermath of the disaster, the Environment Ministry said.
$50 million losses
Foreign Trade and Tourism Minister Roberto Sanchez estimated on Saturday that economic losses total more than $50 million, all sectors combined.
The government is demanding payment of damages from the Spanish energy giant Repsol which owns the refinery.
The environment ministry said 174 hectares — equivalent to 270 football fields — of sea, beaches and natural reserves were affected by the spill. Crews have been working for days to clean up the spill.
But the Ministry said it issued the emergency decree because the crude still in the water was still spreading, reaching 40 kilometers from the spot of the original spill.
The Environment Ministry said “the spill amounts to a sudden event of significant impact on the coastal marine ecosystem.”