Mar. 6 (GIN) – A gas fire that burned for 46 days off Nigeria’s coast has been extinguished according to the Chevron Corp of San Ramon, California, but a full clean up is far from over.
The oil company rig exploded Jan. 16, killing two people before it collapsed into the sea. The explosion started a fire on the ocean surface but the damage reached a village some six miles away.
Fishermen in Koluama complained of fumes, dead dolphins on their white sand shore. Drinking water and fish tasted like fuel, they said.
“The gas is inside the fish,” said Bravely Salvage, youth chairman for the village. “After eating the fish you feel like somebody who drunk diesel, you feel dizzy.”
“There are very clear ecological impacts, that are not hidden, that are very visible,” said Nnimmo Bassey, chair of the environmental advocacy group, Friends of the Earth International. He cited dead fish and a beached whale. “If one whale dies, it means several thousands of smaller species have been impacted.” The fire, he said, was “the worst in African history in terms of gas burned.”
Chevron said its tests hadn’t found pollution in the air or water but that it would hire investigators from a nearby Nigerian university to conduct further studies.
The United Nations Environment Program in August estimated it would take 30 years and cost $1 billion to clean up oil spilled over decades into Nigeria’s river deltas. Oil companies and Nigeria’s government should share the cost, the U.N. group said.