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Oily Mess - devastation and loss in wake of slick

Tuesday, January 7, 2014
Otaheite fishermen Sayed Khan and Shivanand Ramsawak hold up dead fish from the mangrove at Almond Beach, Aripero, on Friday. PHOTO: RISHI RAGOONATH

I stood spellbound in the pouring rain on Friday, too lost in the devastation facing me at the Aripero Mangrove to notice my feet were sinking into a thick pool of oil mixed with sand and mud.


That sinking feeling is pretty much what I believe most of the residents along the southwestern peninsula feel as they watch helplessly as layers of oil colour the shores of the once pristine Coffee, Point Sable and Carrat Shed beaches in La Brea.


Those areas, once teeming with fish, crabs, oysters and shrimps, have now turned into a blackened cemetery for the wildlife unable to escape the black ooze blanketing the shore. The roots of the beautiful Aripero mangrove are now painted with oil.


For two weeks, now entering a third, I have been covering the oil spill in La Brea which is now ravaging the protected mangrove.


As I interviewed fisherfolk from Granville to Otaheite, their faces etched with anxiety, it was obvious the oil spill is a clear and present danger to their livelihood.


On Friday, Otaheite fishermen took the media on a boat tour of the Aripero mangrove that has been sullied by the carpet of oil creeping up the shoreline from Carrat Shed beach.


While Petrotrin says it has the oil spill under control, the magnitude of the devastation left in its path cannot be quantified. The beach may be cleaned and the fisherfolk may be compensated but the wildlife that has been lost and the ecological damage cannot be undone.


When we made our way to the mangrove, which is only accessible by boat, it was abundantly clear the oil spill was wreaking havoc on the area that is home to one of the national birds, the scarlet ibis.


Fishermen said since the December 17 spill, the birds have migrated and are no longer seen coming to the mangrove on evenings to roost.


As a journalist, subjectivity and emotions have no place when covering the varying degrees of the human condition. However, my heart melted on Friday as I watched an elderly man, Premnath Baboolal, a crabcatcher, break down in tears as he expressed fear that the mangrove would not recover and he would not be able to feed his family.


Simply put, for these people, Petrotrin is not working fast enough.


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