GREENPEACE claims a campaigner has been ‘seriously injured’ after one of their inflatable boats was rammed by the Spanish Navy during a protest against oil drilling in the Atlantic Ocean near the Canary Islands.
The group claims a 23-year-old woman from Italy was knocked overboard in the collision and suffered a broken leg. She was airlifted to hospital by a Navy helicopter. Another Greenpeace activist was also treated for minor cuts on board the Arctic Sunrise.
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A statement posted on Greenpeace’s website said: “The Spanish authorities reacted violently – deliberately ramming the boats and putting the lives of peaceful activists at risk.
“We’re thankful that no one else was seriously injured, and outraged at the unjustified use of force.”
The Spanish government is under pressure to abandon oil-drilling plans in the Canary Islands and create a sanctuary for whales and dolphins.
Recently the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) also launched a campaign after Repsol was given the go-ahead for exploration off the shores of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura.
These waters are home to nearly a third of the world’s whale and dolphin species.
WWF Spain’s secretary general, Juan Carlos del Olmo, said: “We’re talking about an area that’s Europe’s richest when it comes to whales and one of the top in the world.”
Del Olmo said whales and dolphins would be at threat of oil spills, contamination and loud noises.
Drilling – which could start soon – is also causing concern in the tourism industry.
Repsol spokesperson Marcos Fraga said the company ‘respected’ the protests, but that opposition was premature.
He said the drilling is first to determine whether the oil reserves exist and how much it would cost to access them.
“From there, we can open a quiet, calm debate regarding the pros and cons, to take a decision as a company, as a society and as a country,” he said.
“But the discovery of hydrocarbons would be good news for the country.”
With unemployment at 33% on the islands, industry and tourism minister Jose Manuel Soria has insisted that Spain ‘cannot afford the luxury’ of not knowing whether the gas and oil reserves exist or not.