The Slatest

“Eye of Fire” in Gulf of Mexico Extinguished but Extent of Damage Remains Unclear

Picture of the logo of Mexico's state oil company Pemex, taken at gas station in Mexico City on April 20, 2020.
Picture of the logo of Mexico’s state oil company Pemex, taken at gas station in Mexico City on April 20, 2020. ALFREDO ESTRELLA/Getty Images

Videos of a huge fire on the ocean surface west of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula went viral and the shocking footage was quickly dubbed the “eye of fire” on social media. The massive ring of flames that made it look like there was lava on the ocean floor was sparked by a leak from an underwater pipeline, Mexico’s state oil company Pemex said. After a little more than five hours of battling the blaze, the fire was fully extinguished and no one was injured, according to Pemex. The fire started in an underwater pipeline that connects to Pemex’s Ku Maloob Zaap offshore oil development. The development is one of the company’s most productive and has an output of more than 700,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, making up some 40 percent of the company’s total output.

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Angel Carrizales, who heads up Mexico’s oil safety regulator ASEA, wrote on Twitter that the incident “did not generate any spill.” That claim was immediately met with lots of skepticism considering he didn’t explain what was burning on the surface of the water. Pemex has vowed to investigate what happened but in the meantime, the horrifying footage led many to question whether it really was the smartest idea to be tapping for hydrocarbons on the ocean floor.

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The Center for Biological Diversity tweeted that the fire was a “shocking new example of how dirty and dangerous offshore drilling is.” Environmental activists also called for action and many said that maybe it was time to reconsider drilling practices. Greta Thunberg said it was hypocritical for world leaders to say they care about climate change when they fail to take action to prevent this type of thing from happening again. “The people in power call themselves ‘climate leaders’ as they open up new oilfields, pipelines and coal power plants,” she tweeted.

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Some lawmakers also tweeted the shocking images and said it was an example of why legislation like the Green New Deal is needed. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted the footage and called out her colleagues “going out on dinner dates with Exxon lobbyists so they can say a Green New Deal is too expensive.” Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz also mocked those who say taking action to combat climate change is too expensive.

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