Barge with 600 gallons of diesel fuel sinks off Galapagos Islands

A barge containing 600 gallons of diesel fuel sank off the coast of the Galapagos Islands on Sunday after a crane fell onto the vessel while unloading cargo, triggering a potential ecological disaster, officials said.

Video of the incident shows the crane toppling over onto the barge just before it sank at La Predial dock of San Cristobal, the easternmost island of the Galapagos archipelago, about 621 miles from mainland Ecuador. Crewmembers can bee seen jumping ship and swimming for safety as the barge, named Orca, capsizes.

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The Ecuadorian Navy and Galapagos National Park officials scrambled to contain the area over concerns the hundreds of gallons of fuel may spill into the open water, the Ecuadorian Navy posted on Twitter.

Absorbent cloths and containment barriers were placed in the water around where the vessel sank. The Navy and environmental officials posted photos of their progress on Twitter.

Ecuador’s Environmental Minister Raul Ledesma said the situation was under control but added that the vessel needed to be removed quickly to avoid possible damage to the environment.

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“We are very concerned about the recovery work of the tanks because there could be a potential spill if it is not done efficiently and swiftly,” Ledesma told Reuters said.

He also clarified that the fuel seen in the water was from the electricity generator the crane had been lifting when it fell, and not from the vessel itself. He said the generator’s fuel leak had been contained.

The surrounding water and two sea lions were tested following the accident but no ill effects have been reported, the Ministry of Environment said.

It was not immediately clear when the vessel would be extricated from the water.

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The Galapagos Islands are home to numerous exotic flora and fauna, including marine iguanas and giant tortoises. The diverse ecosystem inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution when he visited the island in 1835.