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California race against time to contain oil spill

A huge oil spill threatened the wildlife and beaches of California, in what the authorities described as an “environmental catastrophe”.

Dead birds and fish, some with traces of crude oil, were found on Huntington Beach beaches. These were closed by the authorities, who asked all residents to stay away from the polluted waters, which was a coup in the city known as “Surf City”.

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The beaches could be closed “For weeks or even months”warned Mayor Kim Carr, saying she feared a “potential ecological disaster” for the area.

Many residents interviewed by the local media complained about the strong smell of bitumen in the air.

In total, 15 miles of coastline south of Los Angeles were closed, from Huntington Beach to Laguna Beach, and authorities also suspended fishing in the affected area.

The 480,000-liter oil spill began to leak early Saturday from a pipeline connected to an offshore oil platform, according to authorities.

The CEO of Amplify Energy, the Texas-based company that operates the pipeline through its Beta Offshore subsidiary, said he had alerted the Coast Guard on Saturday morning when his teams detected a possible leak.

The company sent a drone to examine “more than 2,400 meters of pipe … We saw a point that we think is most likely the source” of the leak, Martyn Willsher said Monday at a news conference in Huntington Beach.

“The divers will come down this afternoon to check it,” added the general director, adding that none of the annual inspections of the pipeline detected a degradation.

As a precautionary measure, Amplify Energy closed all of its production facilities and pipelines in the area.

“Simply devastating”

The Coast Guard, who oversee the rescue operation, mobilized numerous cleanup boats. As of Sunday afternoon, some 12,000 liters of oil had been removed from the water and 1,600 meters of barriers had been deployed to contain the oil slick.

The spill caused the senator of California Alex Padilla insisted on his request to end offshore oil drilling.

“We have seen time and again how detrimental offshore oil spills are to our coastal ecosystems as well as to our economy,” he tweeted.

“We have the power to prevent future spills.”

Officials have warned residents not to touch or try to save any wildlife, but to call local authorities to alert them to animals affected by the oil.

“This is just devastating to our marine life, our habitat, our economy, our entire community,” Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley said Sunday on MSNBC.

“Our natural habitat that we have spent decades building and creating is damaged in one day.”

Foley said she had been informed that first responders had plugged the pipeline and were working to repair it, but some oil was still leaking on Sunday.

The spill originated near the Elly rig, built in 1980 and one of 23 oil and gas drilling rigs erected in federal waters of Californiareported the Los Angeles Times.

The disaster reignited the debate over the presence of oil rigs and pipelines so close to the southern coast of California.

“The oil spill … is as tragic as it is avoidable,” said Alan Lowenthal, a Democrat who represents the area in Congress in Washington.

“This will be devastating not only for our marine fauna and ecosystem, but also for the livelihoods of our coastal communities that subsist on fishing, tourism and leisure.”

“As long as these platforms and pipelines continue to exist, our coastal communities will continue to be threatened by possible catastrophes like the one we are seeing now.”

Oil spills have marked California during decades. Images of dead, oil-covered dolphins and blackened beaches off Santa Barbara in 1969 sparked widespread rejection.

Since then, California it has not granted any permits to drill for oil.

But the state’s jurisdiction stretches only three miles out to sea, and federally licensed oil and gas platforms dot the area’s seascape, many of them easily visible from shore.

Environmentalists have repeatedly drawn attention to the age of some of these facilities, which they say are rusty and poorly maintained.


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