Brazil environment: Clean-up on beaches affected by oil spill

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Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
A man works to remove an oil spill on Muro Alto beach in Tamandaré, Pernambuco

Thousands of people have taken part in a huge clean-up operation to remove oil and tar from beaches along Brazil's north-eastern coast.

Volunteers, as well as government workers, used wheelbarrows, spades and plastic gloves to remove the thick tar from the sand and water.

The source of the spill, which was first detected on 2 September, remains a mystery.

Experts say this could be the worst disaster for the region's coral reefs.

It has affected wildlife and popular beaches including Praia do Futuro in Ceará, Maragogi in Alagoas, and Itacaré and Ilhéus in Bahia.

At least 15 sea turtles, two seabirds and one fish have been found dead, the environmental agency Ibama said.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
A net was placed under this bridge to try to block oil from reaching a river at the Imbassaí beach in Bahia
Image source, AFP
Image caption,
A volunteer cleans oil from rocks at the Pedra do Sal beach in Salvador, the capital of Bahia state

It was not clear if the volume of oil was increasing or decreasing and how long the problem, which has affected 187 places in nine states, will last.

On Thursday, Ibama President Eduardo Bim said tests had proved the crude oil was produced in Venezuela but officials had not been able to identify the vessel responsible for the leak.

This did not mean that Venezuela was responsible for the leak, he added, describing the case as "unprecedented". Venezuela, however, has denied responsibility for the oil.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Oil blobs are seen on the sand of the Pituba beach also in Salvador
Image source, EPA
Image caption,
A mangrove on the beach of Carneiros in Pernambuco, polluted by the spill

The incident is more challenging than a typical oil spill because the dense crude is not floating on the surface and only appears when it washes up on shore, Mr Bim was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.

Floating barriers usually employed to prevent oil from washing ashore have little effect, for example, so the work has been focused on cleaning up the crude as it comes to the coast.

In Pernambuco state, 30 tonnes of oil were removed from beaches on Saturday alone.

Meanwhile, federal prosecutors have accused the federal government of failing to organise a response, saying the spill has caused environmental damage in an area spanning 2,100km (1,300 miles).

Image source, HANDOUT/EPA
Image caption,
Oil sitting on the surface of the water near Maragogi in Alagoas
Image source, HANDOUT/EPA
Image caption,
The oil seen from above near Maragogi

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