A fire aboard a Pemex diesel and gasoline tanker off the coast of Veracruz threatens to cause environmental damage due to the apparent failure of containment measures and the arrival of the second cold front of the season.
The tanker Burgos was carrying 167,000 barrels of fuel, which burned for 30 hours after an explosion on Saturday morning. Pemex personnel set containment barriers around the ship to prevent the spreading of a spill.
Despite those measures, fishermen and others have reported “oily stains” on the ocean surface, spread up to 13 kilometers from the site of the accident. The information was later confirmed by government officials.
Along with fuels, fishermen suspected that the chemical foam used to put out the fire had also spread around the ship, putting several plant and animal species at risk.
An incoming cold front, which in the Gulf region causes strong winds, could also spread the spilled products to the coastal towns of Antón Lizardo and Alvarado.
“In two days those conditions could spread the pollution four or five kilometers more,” one fisherman told the newspaper El Universal.
The Security, Energy and Environmental Agency (ASEA), part of the Environmental Secretariat, confirmed that the “stain” reported by fishermen was a “combination of fuel and fire-retardant foam” that ocean currents had spread.
The agency instructed Pemex to deploy absorbent booms to contain the “iridescent film” along strategic points between the tanker and the Veracruz coast.
Cleaning and sanitation teams will also be deployed on land, as a preventive measure should the spill reach the shore.
The National Protected Areas Commission, or Conanp, will monitor offshore coral reef systems in an effort to detect any damage.
The Veracruz reef system comprises 17 coral reefs, 11 of which are located off Antón Lizardo. Given the system’s size and number of species it supports, it is considered one of the most important in Mexico.
Greenpeace has warned that even if the immediate spill is contained the effect of the chemicals on the coral reefs may not be fully known for a long time.
No one was hurt in the explosion, which occurred while the ship was about 13 kilometers off the coast, en route from Coatzacualcos to the port of Veracruz.
Source: El Universal (sp)