In the Bahamas, Hurricane Dorian gives way to black mud

The island of Grand Bahama is facing oil pollution after overflowing tanks belonging to the Norwegian oil giant Equinor.

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Around Equinor Terminal, South Riding Point, Grand Bahama Island, September 10th.
Around Equinor Terminal, South Riding Point, Grand Bahama Island, September 10th. LEILA MACOR / AFP

The iodine smell that bathes Grand Bahama Highway, a road corridor connecting the city of Freeport to the eastern tip of Grand Bahama Island – devastated by Hurricane Dorian 1st and September 2 – fainted suddenly. At South Riding Point, some three kilometers east of the fishing village of High Rock, whose Category 5 storm has only been a mouth-watering gusting wind at nearly 300 km / h, it leaves a heady fragrance characteristic of service stations. And the figures suddenly made by our vehicle in a huge, thick, sticky puddle confirm that we are driving in oil.

It comes from the oil storage and transshipment terminal of the Norwegian oil giant Equinor (formerly Statoil), present in thirty countries. There, between a coastline of fine white sand and turquoise waters, and a red mangrove, the facility occupies a strategically interesting position compared to the United States: the shores of southern Florida are only a few hundred kilometers away.

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The metal vats with the black smeared flanks of the terminal look like huge boilers that an imprudent wizard would have forgotten on fire. Five of the ten gigantic reservoirs on the site have been decapitated by Dorian's breath, which, disregarding the nearly five-meter-deep pits that surround each of them, has projected some of the 1.8 million barrels several hundred meters further, in a wetland area with trees inland.

The oil spill seems to have been avoided

In Grand Bahama, the humanitarian crisis triggered by the hurricane is therefore coupled with an ecological disaster whose scale is still difficult to measure, since officially, Equinor still does not know how much oil has spilled. "We do not yet know why (the lids jumped), but we will find, promised the company in a statement. Our priorities now are to help our Bahamian employees, who have survived a very serious natural disaster, and to clean up what has been spilled. ".

A team of specialists dispatched by the company by boat with equipment, from Louisiana, in the middle of last week, is activated. Dressed in white overalls, these oil spill experts recover the oil that has remained on the ground and store it in tanks.


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