Mexico’s state-owned oil company, Pemex, is being slammed by critics after a gas leak at an underwater pipeline caused an oceanic fireball that looked like something out of a Michael Bay film. Video of the ocean on fire in the Gulf of Mexico immediately went viral.
The pipeline, located off the coast of Campeche on the western Yucatán Peninsula, ruptured at 5:15 a.m. on July 2 near the 90,000-gallon oil spill that occurred in 2016. Bright orange flames leapt from the surface of the sea for over five hours before crews were able to extinguish them.
According to reports, the fire began in an underwater pipeline that was connected to a platform on Pemex’s flagship Ku Maloob Zaap oil development. No injuries were reported, and Pemex said it would investigate the cause, although it did release a relatively vague statement.
“The turbomachinery of Ku Maloob Zaap’s active production facilities were affected by an electrical storm and heavy rains,” the Pemex incident report read. The report also note that crews used nitrogen to get the blaze under control.
Angel Carrizales, the head of Mexico’s oil safety regulator, wrote on Twitter that the fire “did not generate any spill,” but didn’t explain what, exactly was burning on the surface.
Greenpeace Mexico says the accident is an indictment against Mexico’s fossil fuel policies, as President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has leaned into expanding oil production and fossil fuels in the country.
“[The fire] demonstrates the serious risks that Mexico’s fossil fuel model poses for the environment and people’s safety,” wrote Greenpeace.
Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenage environmental activist, weighed in, too. “Meanwhile the people in power call themselves ‘climate leaders’ as they open up new oilfields, pipelines and coal power plants – granting new oil licenses exploring future oil drilling sites,” Thunberg wrote. “This is the world they are leaving for us.”