LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Shell officials on Monday began talks in Nigeria's southern city of Port Harcourt with representatives for the Bodo community on compensation and cleanup five years after one of the worst oil spills in Nigeria's history.
Some experts say two oil spills that started in 2008 led to the largest loss of a mangrove habitat ever caused by an oil spill, affecting about 30,000 people in the Niger Delta area since then, according to London-based law firm Leigh Day.
"These people, since 2008 they are living on a creek of oil. You step out of the front door you see oil, breathe in oil and toxic fumes," said lawyer Daniel Leader of Leigh Day, a law firm that is representing about 15,000 people from the community that filed a lawsuit in 2012.
Although Royal Dutch Shell has admitted responsibility for the two spills, the impact has been disputed and will be the main focus of negotiations in Port Harcourt.
Royal Dutch Shell said a joint investigation team estimated 4,100 barrels were lost in the two spills. That estimate is based on the initial investigations by representatives from the company and the local community, spokesman Jonathan French told The Associated Press.
"Having said all that, it doesn't matter how much was spilled because the compensation will be based on the financial loss that people have suffered because of the spill in the lagoon," he said. "And that is a matter of dispute between us and the claimant."
Leigh Day said that 15,000 fishermen and 31,000 inhabitants of 35 villages were affected in and around the Bodo lagoon and its associated waterways. The law firm says independent experts estimate between 500,000 and 600,000 barrels were spilled, devastating the environment that sits amid 90 square kilometers (35 square miles) of mangroves, swamps and channels.
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