British tourists in Peru held on boat seized over Amazon oil spill dispute released

Tourists held prisoner on riverboat by indigenous tribe in Peru
The tourists were held after their vessel was seized during a dispute over an oil spill. Credit: Supplied/ ITV News

Several British travellers have been released from a riverboat where they had been held in a dispute between an indigenous community and authorities in Peru.

They were among 98 passengers on board the Eduardo 11, which was seized during a protest said to be about an oil spillage in the country's Amazon region.

They've now been transferred to another boat to continue their journey.

The Foreign Office confirmed it has been helping a small number of British nationals in Peru.

The tourists have since been transferred to another boat to continue their journey. Credit: ITV

An estimated 98 passengers were on board the vessel, including 23 foreigners from Britain, Germany, the US, Spain and France.

According to local reports by TV Peru Noticias, indigenous Cuninico people took control of the Maranon river in the Urarinas, northern Peru, in a demonstration over an oil leak in the area on 16 September.

The channel reported that the protesters demanded that the government should find a solution to the leak and declare a “state of emergency” in the Urarinas in the meantime.

One protester told the channel: “We are asking that they can declare a state of emergency in the Urarinas area for the oil contamination taking place in our territory.

“We ask that a high-level commission, presided over by the president of the republic, can get here.”

Indigenous leader Wadson Trujillo said that after releasing the passengers, they would continue to block passage to boats on the river until they received government support.

“We have seen ourselves obliged to take this measure to summon the attention of a state that has not paid attention to us for eight years,” he said.

Mr Trujillo asked the government of President Pedro Castillo to declare an emergency in the area to deal with the effects of oil pollution.

He said oil spills in 2014 and again in September this year “have caused much damage” to people who depend on fish from the river as a significant part of their diet.

“The people have had to drink water and eat fish contaminated with petroleum without any government being concerned," he added.

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Mr Trujillo said the spills had affected not only the roughly 1,000 inhabitants of his township but nearly 80 other communities, many of which lack running water, electricity, or telephone service.

Peru's Health Ministry took blood samples in the region in 2016 and found that about half the tests from Cuninico showed levels of mercury and cadmium above levels recommended by the World Health Organization.

“The children have those poisons in their blood. The people suffer from stomach problems — that is every day,” Mr Trujillo said.

The Peruvian government had made no comment on the holding of the passengers, who were en route from Yurimaguas to Iquitos, the main city in the country's Amazon region.