CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) – Hundreds of protesters blocked streets and burned tires in eastern Venezuela on Wednesday to demand clean water after a recent oil spill polluted rivers and streams that supply local storage tanks.
“We have not had water for a week,” said Maria Rodriguez, an angry 26-year-old housewife who joined the protest in the city of Maturin. “We don’t have water to cook and bathe, and we don’t have the money needed to buy bottled water everyday.”
Crude oil began spilling from a ruptured pipeline on Feb. 4 near Maturin.
Monagas state Gov. Jose Gregorio Briceno declared a “state of emergency” following the spill, halting water distribution and closing schools in the state’s capital of Maturin, which is located approximately 255 miles (410 kilometers) northeast of Caracas
Representatives of Venezuela’s state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela S.A., or PDVSA, have not revealed how much oil leaked into the river.
City mayor Jose Vicente Maicavares said approximately 2,000 people, including PDVSA employees, trying to contain the spill that has fouled the Guarapiche River.
Maicavares called for calm, saying officials were doing everything possible to resolve the problem.
“We understand the irritation,” Maicavares told a news conference on Wednesday. “We can only be patient.”
None of the protesters have been arrested, he said.
Ramiro Ramirez, environmental director of state oil company, told the state-run Venezuelan News Agency last week that workers have been using absorbent barriers to block the crude in the river.
They have also shut off water intakes along the river, where a drinking water purification plant is located, Ramirez said.
State oil company officials said a pipe that transports crude to a processing plant ruptured.
Ramirez said officials were investigating what caused the accident.
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