Picture of oil-covered boy draws world's eyes to Brazil spill

Everton Miguel dos Anjos, 13, seen in a photo taken by an AFP stringer at Itapuama beach in Pernambuco state last Monday. The shot taken as he emerged from the oil pollution spreading along the coast of north-east Brazil for nearly two months went vi
Everton Miguel dos Anjos, 13, seen in a photo taken by an AFP stringer at Itapuama beach in Pernambuco state last Monday. The shot taken as he emerged from the oil pollution spreading along the coast of north-east Brazil for nearly two months went viral. Four days after the photo was taken, not much oil remained on the beach. The army had taken over the clean-up operation.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

CABO DE SANTO AGOSTINHO (Brazil) • A boy walks ashore in Brazil in filthy waist-high water with a look of exasperation and his body smeared in oil, a photographer takes a shot, and the image goes viral.

Last Monday, an AFP stringer at Itapuama beach in Cabo de Santo Agostinho, in Pernambuco state, snapped the picture as the child emerged from the oil pollution that has been spreading along the coast of north-east Brazil for nearly two months.

Everton Miguel dos Anjos, 13, along with four brothers and several cousins, had joined hundreds of volunteers that day who were trying to clean the beach and scrub oil off rocks on the shore.

He waded into the water wearing a T-shirt but took it off when he saw how dirty he was getting. Then he fashioned a sort of tunic out of a plastic garbage bag.

Everton told the photographer that his mother scolded him when she saw the pictures, which were published by major news organisations around the world.

"I had asked her permission to help clean the beach and she said yes, so long as I did not get dirty," the boy said.

Four days after the photo was taken, not much oil remained on the beach.

The army had taken over the clean-up operation, and children were no longer allowed to help.

 
 

Since the beginning of this spill, more than 1,000 tonnes of oil have been recovered, according to the Brazilian navy.

The spill was first spotted on Aug 30 off the coast of north-east Paraiba state, and it has now spread along 2,250km of coast, soiling beautiful beaches in a poor region heavily dependent on tourism. Some 200 towns have been hurt.

Environmental groups have complained that the government was slow to respond to the crisis and failed to provide proper resources for tackling what many specialists called the worst environmental disaster ever to hit north-east Brazil.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 27, 2019, with the headline 'Picture of oil-covered boy draws world's eyes to Brazil spill'. Print Edition | Subscribe