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The BBC's Richard Bilton
"In time, much of the oil will break down in the ocean"
 real 56k

The BBC's Environment Correspondent, Tim Hirsch
"The slick has not gone as far out to sea and towards some of the islands as originally feared"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 24 January, 2001, 16:31 GMT
Third island hit by Galapagos slick
Workers try to recover fuel from the waters
Ecuador says it needs more help to deal with the spill
Oil leaking from the stricken tanker Jessica has reached the shores of a third island in the centre of the Galapagos Archipelago.

The director of the Galapagos National Park told the French news agency AFP that waves of fuel had reached the Bay of Tortoises, on the island of Santa Cruz, home to land iguanas and sea lions.

Map
The US Coast Guard, the Ecuadorean Navy and local workers are struggling to contain the slick, which has brought the area to the brink of environmental disaster in recent days.

Ecuadorean Environment Minister Rodolfo Rendon has renewed an appeal for international help, saying the country is running out of funds to tackle the crisis

So far, more than 700,000 litres of fuel have been spilt into the Galapagos waters, but the authorities say a major catastrophe has been averted by winds and tides that have pushed most of the oil out into the ocean.

Conservationists say it is too early to measure the effects of the oil spill, which began five days ago when the Jessica ran aground off the island of San Cristobal.

Growing slick

Fuel has already reached the shores of three islands: Santa Fe, Plaza and Santa Cruz.

Man inspecting sea lion
The island's sea lions are at risk
Pollution experts have placed a protective boom around the vessel, which is breaking up, in an attempt to contain the rest of the oil. Workers in small motor boats are also trying to skim the waters.

On land, park rangers are working to protect the fragile environment, and have set up cleaning centres to treat the animals who wash up on shore.

"The winds are moving the spill toward some very sensitive areas, such as Sea Lion Island, near here, and Santa Fe, where the archipelago's main sea iguana colony lives," said Eliecer Cruz, Director of Galapagos National Park.

Precautions

"We have taken all the precautions to confront this situation," he said.

Galapagos tortoise
Concern about long-term impact on unique animal species
Ecuador's navy said its officers had on Tuesday attempted to pull the Jessica, an 835-tonne ship, back to an upright position from its 45-degree list in order to get the remaining oil off the craft.

But the effort had to be abandoned after the pounding surf washed several recovery workers overboard, including the Jessica's captain, Tarquino Arevalo.

Late on Monday, Ecuador's government declared a state of emergency there.

Food chain threat

"We have a very, very grave environmental problem. But it is a problem, not a tragedy," Ecuador's Environment Minister said.

Ecologists have expressed concern that the spill will take its biggest toll on sea creatures and plants that form part of an intricate food chain.

"Near the Jessica, all the invertebrates are dead. Sea urchins and fish are washing up on the beach," Fernando Espinoza, General Secretary of the Charles Darwin Research Station, said in a television interview.

"Beyond that, it is different. We need another two weeks to monitor the situation," he added.

Officials at the Galapagos National Park said that about 40 sea birds and 10 sea lions had been affected by the spill.

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See also:

24 Sep 00 | Sci/Tech
Following in Darwin's footsteps
08 Oct 98 | Americas
Airlifting the giant tortoise
28 Sep 00 | Sci/Tech
Growing threat to rare species
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