Ecuador activated emergency protocols Sunday to contain the environmental impact of a fuel spill in the Galapagos Islands after a barge carrying 600 gallons of diesel fuel sank, officials said.
The Galapagos archipelago, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to one of the most fragile ecosystems on the planet.
"A fuel spill was observed, and the barge's crew jumped into the sea to safeguard their lives," announced the Integrated Security Service, or ECU-911.
The accident occurred in a port on San Cristobal Island, the easternmost island in the chain, when a crane collapsed while loading a container onto the barge. The falling container destabilized the ship, causing it to sink.
Military personnel and environmentalists were "putting up containment barriers and absorbent cloths to reduce the environmental risk of the sinking of the Orca barge, with 600 gallons of diesel fuel stored on it," tweeted the Galapagos National Park (GNP), the official nature reserve authority.
Units from the Ecuadorian navy and national police were coordinating with the GNP to resolve the emergency and assess environmental damage.
Environment minister Raul Ledesma tweeted that the government had taken "immediate actions" to reduce the environmental risk.
He also ordered "the necessary contingency measures be taken to overcome this unfortunate event." The Galapagos Islands, located 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) east of mainland Ecuador, helped English naturalist Charles Darwin develop the theory of evolution.