Vandals cause 8,000 barrels of oil to spill in Peruvian Amazon

FILE PHOTO: The headquarters of Petroleos del Peru (Petroperu), a state company dedicated to the refining, distribution and marketing of fuels, is seen at the district of San Isidro in Lima, Peru, May 4, 2017. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo/File Photo

LIMA (Reuters) - Peru state oil company Petroperu said approximately 8,000 barrels of crude oil had spilled in the Amazon after vandals severed the pipeline and then impeded technicians seeking to repair the damaged pipe.

The pipe began to spill oil on Tuesday night after sabotage by members of the Mayuriaga indigenous community in the Loreto region of the Amazon, Petroperu said in a statement.

“The townspeople prevented us from securing the pipe to stop petroleum from spilling from the pipe,” said Beatriz Alva Hart, a Petroperu spokeswoman in an interview with local radio station RPP.

Mayuriaga community leaders could not be immediately located for comment.

The pipeline, which transports crude from oil fields in the Peruvian Amazon to Petroperu´s refinery on the Pacific coast, has suffered repeated attacks by vandals over the past two years.

Petroperu said in the statement it had previously warned authorities that the community had threatened to attack that stretch of pipeline in protest of recent municipal election results in the district.

“It’s an issue that has nothing to do with our company,” Alva Hart said later in the radio interview.

Since 2016, more than 20,000 barrels of petroleum have spilled from the critical Peruvian oil pipeline in 15 attacks, and 5,600 barrels have sprung leaks because of corrosion or operative failures, data from environmental regulator OEFA showed.

Reporting by Teresa Cespedes; Writing by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Lisa Shumaker