A MYSTERIOUS oil spill has wrecked an estimated 1,300 miles of coastline in Brazil’s northern states.
The government has come under fire for failing to act on the huge spill, described by one sealife charity as “the worst environmental tragedy” it has ever encountered.
Thousands of volunteers have descended on the region to dig out the thick black sludge.
The substance has been identified as crude oil, which makes it particularly difficult to clean as the dense chemical doesn’t float on the surface.
The oil only appears as it washes ashore, as it has been since September 21.
Oceanographer Maria Christina Araujo said that in such a biodiversity “it is virtually impossible to remove oil.”
Speaking to Phys.Org news, she added: “The damage could be irreparable and the ecosystems will take years to recover.”
In Pernambuco state alone, 30 tonnes of oil has already been removed by volunteers.
The wildlife and economy of the tourist-reliant regions has been devastated with oil now reaching Carneiros beach, known as the “jewel” of Pernambuco state’s coast.
It is the 187th beach affected by the spill.
Brazil’s environmental agency, Ibama confirmed 15 sea turtles and two birds had been killed in the oil slicks with horrifying pictures showing the creatures covered in black tar.
Experts say the country’s stunning coral reefs are also under threat from the sludge.
The original source of the spill is still a mystery.
Brazil’s Environmental Minister, Ricardo Salles said the oil could be linked to Venezuela – which its government denies.
In a news conference earlier this month, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro said: “It appears to be criminal.
“This oil could have been dumped at sea.”
However, it is now thought to be linked to a leaking oil tanker.
Brazil’s government has been heavily criticised in the wake of the spill – with prosecutors from the affected states demanding an official plan of action be put in place.
They have also asked the federal justice system to impose a daily fine equivalent to nearly $250,000 (£192,500) for failure to comply.
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