Thursday, 2 June 2011

Algeciras coastline severly impacted by Gibraltar fuel tank fires

Getares Beach yesterday
ALGECIRAS (Agencies) The fire that destroyed two fuel residue tanks in Gibraltar and was finally extinguished at 5am yesterday morning has had a severe impact on the beginning of the summer beach season in  Algeciras. The residue turned up at dawn yesterday, a black line sighted from the air creping away from the sullage plant area and blown by the wind towards Punta de San García. During the day, the beaches at Getares, El Rinconcillo and La Concha, in the Straits Nature Park, were also affected, to the point that the Junta de Andalucía has activated its Plan de Emergencia por Contaminación del Litoral Andaluz (PECLA, Coastal Emergency Plan). By 5pm the fuel oil had covered 300m of sand at Getares, and other signs appeared at La Linea and San Roque. Cleanup operators are at work since early this morning all along the coastline, and a series of watch points are also in operation, in an attempt to curb further damage to the local environment. Particular attention is being paid at the mouth of Palmones River, the seaward entrance to the protected area there. Meanwhile, Gibraltar is still investigating the causes of the fires, and environmentalists are alarmed at the possibility of damage to the very delicate Straits Nature Park. On the Rock,>a statement from 6 Convent Place indicated that a thorough analysis of the fire would be undertaken by the Gibraltar Port Authority and would establish any changes in procedures arising from them. The statement also includes the following:

"The Government wishes to congratulate and thank the City Fire Brigade, the Defence Fire and Rescue Service, the Royal Gibraltar Police, the Port Authority and GHA staff for their rapid, professional and effective response. And also the Gibraltar Defence Police and the new Highways Enforcement Officers for their valued response to the RGP’s request for assistance. The Government also thank the numerous local companies that assisted rapidly as requested.
"The Government also wishes to thank Boluda Shipping, the Spanish Tug Company contracted by the Government to provide additional sea-borne fire fighting resources, for their rapid response; the Algeciras Port Authority for offering their assistance and providing their Salvamar tug, that enabled still more sea-borne fire fighting capacity to be brought to bear on the fire; and also the CEPSA Refinery in San Roque for making
available additional fire fighting foam from their own stock."

The pollution has angered Agaden, the environmental pressure group, whose spokesperson, Javier Gil, said, "they had 24 hours to prevent this disaster," adding that his group will request the removal of the blue flags at Getares, and ask the EU to investigate the owners of the tanks for allegedly allowing potentially dangerous work to be carried out near inflammable material. Agaden will also be asking Caruana's Government "to accept that [Gibraltar] is a town and as such is unable to deal with catastrophes, as we have seen on other occasions." The group is also to request the creation of a committee of Spanish and Gibraltarian experts to act in extreme situations such as yesterday's, as well as the resignation of the provincial delegate for the Environment, Silvia López, for the inefficiency of one of the detection cabins the "must be badly oriented, as they failed to detect any more smoke than ususal."

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