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Brazil to Start Recovery of Barge Sunk off Antarctica

Brazil will start work this week to recover a barge that sank off Antarctica while carrying 10,000 liters (2,642 gallons) of gasoil.

Petroleo Brasileiro SA, the state-controlled oil company, was asked to participate in the rescue operations and together with Brazil’s navy sent the Gulmar Atlantis ship to refloat the vessel, the navy said today in an e-mailed statement.

The ship, which carries divers, doctors and meteorologists, will start work immediately after reaching the Comandante Ferraz Brazilian Antarctic Base on Feb. 29, it said. About 70 percent of the research station was destroyed yesterday by a fire that killed two people, the navy said in another statement.

The barge sank during a sudden change in weather while unloading cargo at the station, according to the navy, which didn’t say when the accident took place. The vessel, supplied by the navy, is on the sea floor about 900 meters (2,953 feet) from shore. There was no leak or structural damage, the navy said.

“During the refloating all the necessary resources will be employed for the containment of environmental pollution,” the navy said.

The accident had been kept secret by the Brazilian government since it occurred in December, the newspaper O Estado do Sao Paulo reported today, adding that there’s a risk the barge may leak gasoil during the recovery process.

Silence Disputed

In a statement today to Bloomberg News, the navy press office denied withholding information and said the sinking was reported by a Brazilian television station Dec. 9.

The Comandante Ferraz base was evacuated yesterday after fire broke out in an engine room housing the energy generators, killing two military officials and injuring a third, the navy said. An investigation into the cause of the fire is under way.

Station personnel were expected to return to Brazil today and the injured official is being treated in Chile, the navy said.

Brazil established the station, on King George Island, in 1984, according to the navy’s website.

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