This is a message from Galicia.. in NW Spain.. where, as you all may already know, some days ago, an old single-hull oil tanker named PRESTIGE cracked and sunk causing a tremendous oil slick that has been polluting and killing the Galician sea and coast in over 300 miles.. firstly with about 10,000 tons of toxic heavy fuel
that hit the shore last week.. and now with 11,000 tons more which are just about to hit a much wider area during the weekend.. and the situation is far from seeing its end as thousands of the 50,000 tons still remaining at the bottom of the sea at just over 100 miles off the coast are leaking off the sunken vessel and starting to float in the area.. and which will eventually hit Galicia again, but even portugal, France, UK.. depending on winds and currents..
The situation in Galicia is terrible.. from the very first moment.. with technically-ignorant politicians leading the operation.. forbidding private volunteers and citizen organizations from cleaning the beaches and protecting the fish farms, the estuaries, the birds.. cheating on the Galician population, trying to minimize the real dimension of this catastrophe.. even denying the existence of an oil slick.. while other European governments, specialized organizations, foreign and national technicians, were already confirming Europe''s biggest ever oil pollution disaster.. since what is already a tragedy is nothing but the tip of the iceberg.. the worst is yet to come..
The tanker, owned by THE SAME Greek holding that was behind the disasters of AEGEAN SEA in Galicia 10 years ao and ERIKA in France, sailing under PANAMA flag, and chartered by the Russian ALPHA GROUP, was in a very poor condition, and loaded with toxic heavy fuel
, with an incredibly high sulphur content and loads of carcinogenic substances.. and loads of that heavy fuel
are not floating but spreading all over the seabed, killing fish and shellfish in the bottom.. killing all birds on the beaches.. and already affecting the lungs of the few volunteers that managed to bypass government''s control and started to clean up the beaches..
Galicia lives OFF the sea.. FOR the sea.. BY the sea.. thousands of fishermen, shellfish farmers, sailors, have lost their income.. their daily bread and butter.. when they were starting to recover from the AEGEAN SEA tragedy of 1992.. and previous tragedies of URQUIOLA in the 70s.. CASON in the 80s.. and the most important fishing and fish farming area in the world has been destroyed.. and is still being destroyed as I type this letter.. because there is no response from the government.. there are no means to clean up the spill.. there are no barriers.. the means are so scarce and inadequate that are virtually useless.. and the lack of experience and know-how of the politicians handling this situation is increasing the magnitude of this catastrophe by the minute..
Not only volunteers have been told off the beaches.. there is no coordinaton or organization of efforts at all.. neither technical means nor human resources.. and international help offered hours after the situation started has never been accepted.. except for a couple of boats that arrived too late and which cannot operate in the adverse weather conditions we are suffering these days..
Planes and helicopters have just been banned off the area so that nobody can take pictures or live shots of the Galician coast or sea.. !!!!!!!!!!!!
Thousands of people in the area.. not just the fishermen and their families, but all of us who love the sea and sailing on it.. our sea.. YOUR SEA.. because the sea belongs to us and to you too.. it belongs to ALL of us.. or at least that''s what I feel when I sail in UK waters , Spanish waters or anywhere else.. I feel we all own a bit of it.. and I reckon we should all feel affected by this atrocity.. even if the oil slick does not get to our very own coastal villages and harbours..
As you probably guess from reading this letter.. it is written in a state of anger, fear, anxiety, worry, which is shared by thousands of people here in Galicia.. that horrible feeling of being absolutely powerless, abandoned, alone.. because Galicia has been left to die.. silently!!! this is no longer just an unforeseen accident.. this is not unvoluntary homicide or manslaughter.. this is MURDER.. and it is being carried out in the MEDIA DARKNESS.. hiding it with lies and disinformation.. misleading international interest.. minimizing media impact.. killing us with a hand covering our mouth so that our cries do not hit national and international headlines!!!!
We all depend on making this public and widely known as the ONLY WAY to force European politicians to put an immediate end to this situation and future tragedies all over Europe by passing strong and urgent bills to prevent crappy tankers from sailing across our seas at a short distance of our shores.. by enforcing inspections off ALL vessels at ALL harbours and arresting those which do no not meet safety standards.. by banning oil companies from making huge profits by putting all of us at risk.. by making the companies behind the PRESTIGE, the AEGEAN SEA, the BRAER, the SEA EMPRESS, the ERIKA, and so many others have not just economical but legal liability for their actions.. even go to jail (not the Masters, who are simply doing their job the best they can.. but the GREEDY PIGS who sit comfortably at their homes, miles away, while reading the news on these catastrophes.. and who even make more money out of them.. with cargos insured at 110% of their value.. and crappy ships very well covered and paid by insurance companies..) by making class societies be strict and not affected by the pressure from their "clients".. by not allowing shipowners to by pass all safety regulations by using convenience flags and "slave" crews with no technical knowlege of shipping..
This is a MAYDAY RELAY message from Galicia and its people.. for you to transmit the best way you can.. to as many people as possible.. using all possible means.. word of mouth.. internet forums worldwide.. websites.. letters to editors.. mass media articles.. whatever!!!! please don''t let our sea.. YOUR SEA.. be killed silently.. speak up if you can.. because most of the people suffering, crying, praying, here in Galicia cannot do it.. and it is our future and the future of our kids we are dealing with..
When my dad took me to see the burning URQUIOLA I was the same age my kids are today.. and it is me now taking them to see PRESTIGE''s slick.. my youth was marked by those YEARS of tar covered beaches and rocks.. by the dead birds on the beaches.. by the acrid smell of the sea.. and I hoped then that it would never happen again.. but it did, back in 92.. when I was starting to be an adult.. and it did again a few days ago.. and it is my kids now who will suffer during the coming years the effects of this tragedy..
Let''s all do our utmost so that it never happens again.. neither in Galicia.. nor wherever you are.. NEVER AGAIN.. NOWHERE..
Best regards from Galicia.. in NW Spain.. and thanks to all of you who share our feelings and who understand what Galician people are going through.. especially to those who have contacted us and volunteered to help.. we need it.. and shall need it for a long time..