Lima, Nov 4 (EFE).- Some 150 boat passengers held captive for a day by indigenous people demanding action to clean up an oil spill on the Marañon River in northeastern Peru were freed Friday, an official told EFE.
“A few minutes ago, the lieutenant governor indicated to me that they were coordinating the transfer,” the head of the Loreto regional branch of the national ombud’s office said.
Abel Chiroque said that the passengers, who were traveling from from Yurimaguas to Iquitos aboard three different vessels when they encountered the blockade mounted by residents of the town of Cuninico, will continue their journey on a cargo boat.
The travelers were released after delegates from the central government met Friday with leaders of Cuninico and other indigenous communities affected by a breach on the North Peru Pipeline in September that contaminated the river.
Chiroque said that while the protest continues, the residents agreed to allow the passengers to continue their journey.
The trip from Cuninico to Iquitos could take up to 23 hours or in the best case, around 10 hours aboard a fast boat, he said.
Peru’s energy minister, Alessandra Herrera, confirmed the liberation of the boat passengers while acknowledging the grievances of the residents.
She told a press conference that the preliminary investigation indicates the pipeline breach was the result of human action, not poor maintenance.
The waylaid passengers include Peruvian national team cyclist Angela Ramirez and other competitors headed to a race in Iquitos.
In a telephone call to RPP Noticias radio, Ramirez said that she was accompanied by 15 cyclists – 10 of them from the United States – and that French, Swiss, German, Spanish, Brazilian and British nationals are among the hostages.
Cuninico residents began blocking the Marañon River early last month to protest authorities’ failure to address the effects of the oil spill.
The community leaders warned that starting Nov. 1, they would block river traffic between Yurimaguas and Iquitos. EFE