Dec. 23 (UPI) — A cargo vessel being loaded with containers in the Galapagos Islands overturned Sunday, sinking some 600 gallons of oil into the UNESCO World Heritage site, officials said.
Crews worked immediately in an effort to contain the diesel fuel spill in the Pacific Ocean archipelago, which threatens some of the world’s most important ecosystems.
The Ecuadorian Coast Guard said the accident occurred when a container fell on a ship after the crane that was loading it lost control on San Cristobal Island, the easternmost island in the Galapagos.
That caused the remaining containers to tip over and the ship to capsize as sailors jumped to safety.
Galapagos National Park employees and the Ecuadorian Navy used containment barriers and hydrocarbon-absorbing cloth in an effort to contain the spill.
Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno said Monday the spill was under control. It was not immediately clear how much of the fuel spilled into the water and what was contained.
The Galapagos Islands are located some 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador and best known as the place where Charles Darwin was inspired to develop his theory of evolution in 1835.
The Galapagos is made up of 19 islands and the surrounding marine reserve that has been called the “melting pot” of marine species. The islands’ volcanic activity with its isolation has led to the development of unique animal life.