The environmental disaster is now an international catastrophe almost a week after a fire started in a biodiversity-rich mangrove off Nicaragua’s Pacific coast.
Multinational oil company Puma Energy may be responsible for a major oil spill over the weekend in the tourist destination Puerto Sandino, on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast, contaminating nearly a mile of mangroves and now the coasts of Honduras and Costa Rica.
Costa Rica University oceanographer Omar Lizano reported Monday that the oil had reached the Gulf of Fonseca, shared by the three Central American countries, and was now affecting the beaches and mangroves’ exceptional biodiversity.
The spill followed an explosion involving two of the company’s four tanks that stored oil-derived products, the local environment group Humboldt Center said at a press conference over the weekend. The center demanded immediate measures to at least slow down what it described as ongoing environmental damage.
“There is an important oil spill, whose precise volume remains unknown, but 1 kilometer square of mangrove water is filled with oil, the fauna has been affected,” said Humboldt Center’ director Victor Campos.
Beside the mangroves, the oil was also swept into the ocean while the tide rose. Corpses of fish, turtles and crabs started accumulating everywhere, reported La Prensa.
The fire started Wednesday afternoon in one of the tank, which exploded, and spread a few hours later to a second tank. Because of the oil-derived products, the fire did not stop before Saturday.
“The oil can seriously contaminate water because it dissolves itself in it,” added Campos, as oil is likely to contaminate the superficial water, but also the underground reserves. “We cannot evaluate the damage, all we could do now is an evaluation process, and then find solutions—which usually take years—the damages depend on the type of oil.”
He also called the Environment Ministry and the Environmental Prosecutor to open an investigation into whether there was a case of environmental crime, who was responsible and who would have to pay the Nicaraguan state financial compensations for the damages.
The Sandinista government implemented an action plan on Friday in a bid to control the fire and provide health care to the residents. In a joint press conference with Puma Energy, the government also announced a range of measures to address the contamination.