SOURCE: Voice of America News and New York Times

DATE: December 22, 2019

SNIP: Ecuador declared a state of emergency Sunday after a barge carrying nearly 2,300 liters of diesel fuel sank at the Galapagos Islands.

A crane collapsed while loading fuel onto the ship at a port on San Cristobal, the easternmost island of the Galapagos chain. A heavy container of fuel fell to the deck, causing the barge to go down while the crew jumped overboard for their lives.

Soldiers and environmentalists immediately deployed barriers and absorbent cloths to stop the spilled fuel from spreading. Experts will assess the damage.

The Galapagos, which are part of Ecuador, is a United Nations World Heritage Site and is one of the globe’s most fragile ecosystems.

Many of the plant and animal species who live on the islands are found nowhere else in the world.

Dramatic video of the crane collapse shows workers trying to load a shipping container onto what appears to be a relatively small vessel called the Orca. As the crane hoists the container over the ship, the container comes crashing down onto the Orca, pulling the crane with it. The crane tumbles over the Orca and into the water, and the ship flips onto its side as people on board dive into the water.

It was not immediately clear if anyone had been injured in the episode or how significant the environmental damage was.

The islands have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. Their scenery and unique wildlife — including marine iguanas, flightless cormorants and giant tortoises — have made them increasingly popular with tourists, though scientists have warned that more visitors could threaten the area’s fragile ecosystem.

Warming oceans increasingly threaten the islands. UNESCO has warned that they are one of the places most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.