Home » Satellite images show scale of huge oil spill in Caribbean

Satellite images show scale of huge oil spill in Caribbean

by John Jefferson
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New satellite images show the scale of a massive oil slick spilling from a capsized vessel near Trinidad and Tobago, with oil continuing to flow to other regions across the Caribbean Sea.

Workers are struggling to contain the leak from the barge that sank about 500 feet off Tobago island on 7 February, carrying as much as 35,000 barrels of fuel.

Oil leaking from the vessel has turned the beaches of the island black during the peak tourist season around Carnival, prompting what the prime minister of the twin-island nation called a “national emergency”.

During the cleanup operation a black plastic bag containing more than a kilogram of cocaine – estimated to have a street value of around $75,000 – was found washed up on a beach near the grounded tanker, the authorities said on Monday. Police are not linking the discovery to the oil spill at this stage.

Before and after satellite images from the European Space Agency (ESA) show a long and thick black slick of oil flowing across the Caribbean, continuously expanding as it spreads.

The second image captured by the satellite on 14 February shows the oil spill travelled over 160km westwards, the ESA said.

Authorities are still unsure of the origin of the ship, the kind of oil leaking from the vessel or how much of it res.

The Trinidad and Tobago government is urging the barge’s owner to step forward and take responsibility for the disaster.

The oil last week reached Grenada’s waters and poses a potential threat to neighbouring Venezuela.

Venezuela’s foreign affairs ministry said that the country was monitoring the spill and has initiated meetings with Trinidad‘s government to coordinate action.

The vessel – a barge being pulled by a tugboat – was found without any information about its origins or owner on board. It is believed to have been headed for Guyana when it ran aground.

Environmental officials said the spill has damaged a reef and several popular beaches, a blow for both the islands’ environment and its tourism industry during the Carnival season.

Oil spills in the ocean typically have much wider impacts than spills on land and can be disastrous for marine life and ecosystems. Coated in oil, animals can be killed by poisoning or suffocation.

“Oil and oceans don’t mix, and this disastrous oil spill from an overturned vessel off Trinidad and Tobago is the latest destructive example,” said Alexcia Best, campaign associate for ocean conservancy group Oceana.

“Oil spills have dangerous impacts on oceans, fisheries, people, and coastal economies that last for years.”

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