Oil Spill in Estancia Iloilo Province, Western Visayas, Philippines Resulting from Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda)

Executive summary

A significant spill of heavy oil (bunker C type) occurred when Power Barge No. 103 ran aground at the shores of Estancia during the height of typhoon Haiyan. Between 21 and 23 November, environment experts from the Philippines Environmental Management Bureau visited the site of the oil spill together with a United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) environment expert, and a public health expert from the World Health Organization, in order to jointly undertake a preliminary assessment of the threats the spill poses to human health, livelihoods and the environment.

Current estimates by the management of the power barge amount to around 800,000 litres of oil having leaked. As the ruptured tanks continue to leak and up to 600,000 litres of oil remain in the tanks, the amount of spill is increasing steadily. Urgent action is required to pump out the remaining oil or seal the holes in the tanks.

Most of the spilled oil has washed ashore, contaminating the coast and mangroves up to 10 kilometres downstream. The containment booms deployed are not sufficient to effectively contain all of the free phase oil in the water. The free phase oil has been blown ashore by southeastern winds so far. A change of wind direction or a tropical depression could further complicate the containment of the free phase oil. A faster, mechanical clean-up process with oil skimmers is urgently required.

An urgent need for recovery and clean up equipment and expert advice has been identified. A request for technical assistance to the Environmental Management Bureau in Iloilo has been received by the United Nations on 22 November and an oil spill clean-up expert was deployed on 27 November.

Temporary workers who have been hired for the clean-up operations continue to stay close to the site of the accident. The workers are currently exposed to significant occupational health risks due to the unsafe and ineffective practice of manual recovery of free phase oil in the open water and the insufficient and inappropriate provision of personal protective equipment. Immediate change in the management of the clean-up operation is required in order to protect the workers from unacceptable health risks.

The contamination of the coast is putting the resident population at risk from accidental fires and other physical injuries. The chemical risk to the affected population is limited as long as direct contact with contaminated debris is avoided. The physical risk to the people sheltering in the immediate vicinity of the oil spill has been mitigated with the evacuation of most of the population to a temporary evacuation centre. With every day the clean-up process is delayed, the affected population does not get the opportunity to recover and will continue to depend on humanitarian relief.

The oil spill is a threat to the livelihoods of the population who depend mainly on fishing and tourism, and having been heavily affected by the typhoon. This increases the vulnerability of the population who has been severely affected by the typhoon with many houses severely damaged. As of 27 November, electricity is still not available in Estancia. The sea, shore, rivers and mangroves south of Estancia have been affected by the oil spill. Appropriate mitigation measures are urgently required in order to limit the effects on human health, livelihoods, and the ecosystem. Some preliminary recommendations have been formulated in this report.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:
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