Published: Monday 30 April 2001

At least 10 people died and a few were seriously injured when the world's largest oilrig (located 130 km off the northeastern coast of Brazil) sunk to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Petrobrasthe state-owned oil groupmanages the oilrig. An explosion rocked one of the piles that supported the rig on the seabedleading to its gradual collapse. To prevent any spillPetrobras has assembled two sets of ocean barriers around the oilrig's platform. Barges equipped for oil retrial and storage support them. Despite the company's assurance that there were no indications of damage to the ecosystemenvironmental organisations express concern. BirdLife Internationala global network of organisations in 100 countriesstated that the critically endangered spectacled petrel (Procellaria conspicillata) and the threatened Atlantic yellow-nosed albatross (Thelassarche chlororhynchos)often sighted in the areacould be at risk following the incident.

Petrobras has a notorious track record. In July 2000the company was fined us $110 million by Brazil's Parana State Environmental Protection Agency for spilling four million litres of crude oil into a tributary of the Iguacu River. Weeks laterthe company was held responsible for a 10spill of methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) near Rio de Janeiro.

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