Beaches reopen as spill evaporates at sea

Eight beaches had to be closed on Saturday along the north east coast of Gran Canaria, from San Cristóbal to Gando Bay (by the airport) as a precaution due to the diesel fuel spill caused by the Naviera Armas ferry collision on Friday with the La Esfinge dock, also known as the Nelson Mandela dock, but are now open again for bathing. The island government, the Cabildo de Gran Canaria, report that the 10 square kilometre slick has reduced by at least 80% and is moving away from the coast, evaporating “at a good pace” and it is anticipated will disappear by the end of Monday.

After the collision, five fuel distribution lines, owned by the company Oryx, were damaged and one of them could not be sealed, causing a spill now confirmed to be 60,000 litres of diesel fuel, of which half was reportedly collected immediately. The desalination plant at Piedra Santa was closed as a precautionary measure to avoid complications with the water utility as the slick began to move South-southeast from the capital.

No reports of the slick making landfall have been received.  The affected area was again monitored yesterday from the air and from land after beaches in the north east of the island were closed until yesterday afternoon the  situation had “notably improved,” and the Cabildo’s Island Emergency Plan Directorate decided after several meetings that San Cristóbal, La Laja, La Garita, Playa del Hombre, Melenara, Salinetas, Tufia and Ojos de Garza could again be used by bathers.

The eastern municipalities of Ingenio and Agüimes were also included for a time in the beach closures, in line with the Emergency Plan, but after their beaches were thoroughly checked on Sunday those municipalities were removed from the list.

According to the Government of Gran Canaria, the situation is still active both with the operations overseen by the city council of the capital and Telde on its coast, as are the aerial inspections of the GES envronmental department and the rescue boat proceedures designed to break up the pollutant. The Miguel de Cervantes , The Guardamar Polimnia and the Salvamar Nunki, part of the Marine Rescue fleet, yesterday worked at mechanically dispersing the surface diesel using their propellers to encourage evaporation of the the slick which grew to a length of 8.5 miles (13.6 kilometres).

The island governing Cabildo reported that the diesel came no closer than one kilometre from shore, according to inspections carried out at first light in a helicopter from the Government of the Canary Islands .

Though the spill is expected to have evaporated off the surface by the end of the day emergency services and the various public administrations have been kept vigilant and on alert.

In addition, the Cabildo has requested that anyone who spots debris near the coast or encounters any fauna affected by the hydrocarbon pollutant avoid contact and instead call 112 to report as quickly as possible.

The island administration will keep the public informed throughout the day using their Twitter accounts.