Latin America & Caribbean

Peru oil spill pollutes Amazon rivers used by indigenous group

Photo of ruptured pipeline Image copyright OEFA
Image caption The oil has spilled into two nearby rivers

At least 3,000 barrels of crude oil have been spilled in an Amazonian region after leaks from Peru's main oil pipeline, the state oil company said.

The oil has polluted two rivers that at least eight indigenous communities rely on for water, the government and indigenous leaders said.

Petroperu has promised a full clean-up and is also providing food and water.

The company said the first leak was triggered by a landslide but the cause of the second rupture was unclear.

The oil has poured into the Chiriaco and Morona rivers in northwestern Peru, the government's environment watchdog, OEFA, said.

The spill is affecting the Achuar community and heavy rains have hampered efforts to contain it, local indigenous leader Edwin Montenegro said.

More on Peru's Achuar

Peru's health ministry has declared a water quality emergency in five districts and OEFA officials said Petroperu could face fines of up to $17m (£12m) if the spills were found to have affected local people's health.

In a statement, OEFA said the spills were "not isolated cases" and ordered the company to replace parts of the pipeline and improve maintenance.

Image copyright OEFA
Image caption Petroperu has promised to clean up the oil

Petroperu president German Velasquez also denied reports the company had paid children to clean up the thick sludge.

However, Mr Velasquez said he was considering firing four company officials, one of whom may have allowed children to collect oil.

The company was evaluating the 1970s-built pipeline to prevent future spills, he said.

The leaks have stopped the transportation of up to 6,000 barrels of oil a day.

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