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Oil pipeline bursts in Ecuador

A RUPTURE in Ecuador's second largest oil pipeline has polluted the Santa Rosa river in the lush Amazon jungle and shut off the flow of crude to a Pacific port in the city of Esmeraldas.

A spokesman for the firm running the pipeline said on Thursday that the pipeline would be restarted in five days. Meanwhile, dozens of white-suited workers shoveled crude out of the river.

The OCP pipeline, which pumps around 130,000 barrels of heavy crude per day, ruptured late on Wednesday. Export commitments will be covered until repairs are finished, a line spokesman said. The rupture was the first of the privately run line since it started operations in 2003.

Repeated oil spills by foreign companies and the country's state oil company, Petroecuador, are a threat to rare species of jaguars and river dolphins in the Amazon jungle, where most of the Andean country's oil operations are located.

Local resident Margarita Aigaje has no clear water to drink after more than 14,000 barrels of crude polluted the river in front of her hut.

"I don't know if this river will ever be clean again," said Aigaje, 39, as she skinned a pig only a few yards from the oil-tainted river. "We are trying to collect rainwater because we can't drink from the river anymore."

Overlooking dark pools used to recover spilled oil, OCP line spokesman Eugenio Naranjo said the leak was contained and clean up crews worked around the clock to prevent further contamination.

Ecuador's largest pipeline, the state-run 360,000-bpd SOTE pipeline, was operating normally on Thursday, an oil company official told Reuters. The SOTE pipeline runs alongside the OCP line.


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