David McFadden for the Associated Press reports on a recent Venezuelan oil spill affecting Curaçao:
An extensive fuel spill has fouled a stretch of shoreline and oiled pink flamingos and other wildlife in a nature preserve in Curaçao, conservationists and residents of the tiny Dutch Caribbean island reported on Monday.
The leader of a local environmental group asserted Monday that the spill of crude oil at Curaçao’s Jan Kok preserve was from at least one storage tank owned by the Isla oil refinery located off Willemstad, Curaçao’s colorful capital. The Isla oil refinery is run by the state-owned oil company of Venezuela, only about 40 miles away.
“This is probably the biggest (environmental) disaster in Curaçao,” said Peter van Leeuwen of the Stichting SMOC group. “The whole area of Jan Kok is black. The birds are black. The crabs are black. The plants are black. Everything is draped in oil.”
Photographs of Curaçao’s southern Jan Kok area show a darkened coast and gobs of oil dripping off of coastline rocks and mixing in the surf. Oil-smudged flamingos, crustaceans, and lizards can be seen struggling on the wind-swept reserve of salt flats.
van Leeuwen said the spill started threatening wildlife sometime last week but cleanup efforts by the company only recently got under way at the nature reserve, no more than 1,000 meters away from big tanks where Petroleos de Venezuela SA stores thousands of gallons of crude oil.
The Isla refinery is a sprawling expanse of metal pipes, chemical converters and concrete by Willemstad’s bay. For years, activists have complained about the thick haze of smoke that sometimes blankets the area around the refinery, which can produce roughly 220,000 barrels a day.
Venezuela’s state-owned oil company is grappling with arguably more pressing problems. On Saturday, a huge explosion rocked the energy-rich country’s biggest oil refinery, unleashing a ferocious fire that killed at least 41 people and injured more than 150 others.
Jacintha Constancia, Curaçao’s minister of public health, environment and nature, also did not answer calls on Monday to explain what the government was doing about the spill or to prevent future accidents