Engineers are in a race against time to prevent an ecological disaster as an oil slick threatens to pollute Italy’s longest river, the Po.
Tonnes of oil has spilled into a tributary 50 kilometres north of the River Po which is used by farmers to water their crops.
The spill originated at an abandoned refinery near Monza where vandals are said to have sabotaged a storage tank.
Francesco Brunetti, of the Arpa Lombardia Region Environment Agency said: “To have an idea of how much oil has been spilt, think that a tanker lorry has 30 cubic metres, or 30 tonnes, from 30 tonnes to 2,400 tonnes, it’s like 80 tanker lorryloads.”
The civil protection agency has raised flood gates along the affected tributary and heavy duty pumps are being used to extract as much of the fuel as possible.
Hundreds of birds have already died because of the spill. The wetlands of the Po Delta are also a wildlife reserve and home to over 1,000 plant species.