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Thursday, 20 July, 2000, 07:34 GMT 08:34 UK
Oil spill takes toll on wildlife

Birds will continue to die for days after the spill
By BBC News Online's Catherine Harney

The oil spill in the river Iguacu in south-eastern Brazil is the worst in the country for 25 years, and the environmental impact is likely to be huge.

Part of the problem is that the spill happened in a fast-flowing river, and the Brazilian authorities had difficulties containing the devastation.


I spent the day walking along the river. I saw many dead fish, birds and some mammals piled up on the banks

Tereza Urban
It was unlike anything they have had to deal with before.

The two previous major leaks have both been into the sea in Rio de Janeiro's Guanabara Bay.

Environmentalists say government agencies dealing with the disaster did too little, too late.

Tereza Urban from the environmental group Rede Verde in Curitibia, said: "They are not doing a proper job because the river flows all the time and the barriers they had used at sea did not work."

"The first problem was the oil flowed for two hours without anyone noticing: how could this happen?"

Stopping the spill

But the Parana State Environmental Protection Agency, although admitting to a few problems when the leak was first discovered, is confident that it has contained the oil.


I saw the barriers and I saw the oil pass over and under the barriers. How can the environment agency say it has stopped?

Tereza Urban
Jose Antonio Andre Guetto said: "The oil is now 40km from where it was first leaked but we believe it will not go any further."

"We have tested the water at the point at which it is used for tap water, which is 240km further down the river. It is okay to drink - there is no evidence of it being affected at all."

The agency is continuing to monitor water supplies in the region, and the all clear will not be given for sometime.

But Tereza Urban has been out to the site of the slick and she is not at all convinced the spill has been contained.

"I saw the barriers and I saw the oil pass over and under the barriers. How can the environment agency say it has stopped?"

"I spent the day walking along the river. I saw many dead fish, birds and some mammals piled up on the banks."

Endangered birds

Dr Richard Thomas from Birdlife International in Cambridge in England says some animals will not be affected straight away.


The Merganser [bird] likes shallow, fast flowing water, and the water needs to be clear for it to survive

Dr Richard Thomas
Some birds covered in oil will die 10 days after they are contaminated.

Other animals will move away from the river and die in the forests.

South-eastern Brazil is home to many endangered species.

Dr Thomas says one bird could become extinct as result of the oil spill.

Brazilain Merganser
The Brazilian Merganser is under threat
The Brazilian Merganser is already a critically endangered species - the population is down to the last 250.

"The Merganser likes shallow, fast flowing water, and the water needs to be clear for it to survive."

"Deforestation, farming and mining have already contributed to its downfall."

Now this spill could spell the bird's end.

Tereza Urban is worried about the future.

"This pollution will not go away for 10 years, maybe more, fish will continue to die and more animals will get sick, it is sad."

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See also:

19 Jul 00 | Americas
Brazil contains oil spill
19 Jul 00 | Americas
In pictures: Brazil's oil spill
19 Jul 00 | Americas
Brazil fights massive oil spill
27 Jan 00 | Americas
Grim report into oil spill
24 Jan 00 | Americas
Brazil fights tide of oil
20 Jan 00 | Americas
Brazil oil giant attacked over leak
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