Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Black Tide Strangles, Galicia- Winter 2002

Ten days after the sinking of the Prestige, the catastrophic gravity is still present. Rocks, beaches and even the piazza of this sweet Galician village are coloured black and covered by a nauseating oil layer, many centimetres thick in some places. A few seagulls continue to fly, curious about the actions of those strange Martians who try to clean this toxic waste from beaches and rocks.

On the other side of the village, the beautiful beach shows no evidence of the tragedy; seagulls and cormorants continue their lives over the sea, going out only to dry their feathers in the sunlight.

The only sign of the catastrophe is the small port, completely full of boats, that at this time should be working on the sea. The fish market is empty. Many houses have hung a banner against the government's censoring of information, the mass-media and the management of this crisis.

From the first moment, the Spanish authorities have tried to minimise the dimension of the accident. "A black tide never existed. Only some cases of pollution at the coasts, spread as leopard spots". If we look at the actual facts, we find that 400 Km of coasts are contaminated. Out of 350 beaches existing in Galicia, about 150 are affected, and about 700 people and thousands of volunteers, who do not see their efforts recognised or organised by anybody.

Many beaches look intact or already cleaned, but actually the oil is still there, hidden under the sand, because the oceanic tides and the powerful waves settle it, creating a kind of "sandwich" with deadly effects for the fauna of the sand: As many people say, this is only the first step of the real black tide.

The French experts from "the Cedre", the most important European institute in hydrocarbon contamination, say that the oil inside the ship 4000 metres below the surface will probably remain on the bottom. The oil spilt during the catastrophe can still be seen in the sea, threatening any unfortunate coast. They say the slick that is coming contains about 11,000 tonnes of oil and is tens of kilometres long. It has been followed by anti-pollution boats from many diverse European countries including France, Holland, Great Britain, Germany and in few days also by two Italian ships.The slick is viewed with terror by all Atlantic countries: Where it goes depends on the tides, the weather, and the winds, and the water barriers are not able to work correctly with these oceanic waves and because the skimmer ships able to collect dense oil are few, too few.It's a fight against time.

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