By Gabriel Ponte
BRASILIA, Nov 4 (Reuters) - Brazil's government said on Monday that the flow of mysterious crude oil hitting the country's northeastern beaches has slowed, adding that the cost of the disaster could reach into the billions of reais.
Speaking with reporters in Brasilia, government officials also said that they did not know if the flow could pick back up, given the unpredictable nature of currents and the difficulty in monitoring an environmental disaster that stretches across a formidable stretch of coastline.
"It is an unprecedented situation. This disaster has never happened in Brazil, even in the world. This oil is not noticeable by the satellite," said Defense Minister Fernando Azevedo. "We don't know how much is spilled."
On Sunday, President Jair Bolsonaro said in a TV interview that "the worst is yet to come" and that there could be a "much bigger catastrophe."
Since September, beaches in Brazil's northeast have been hit by the oil. State-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro and Brazilian authorities have no doubt that the oil is Venezuelan, but investigations into its origin are ongoing.
Last week, an operation by the federal police and the federal prosecutor's' office pointed to the Greek vessel Bouboulina as most likely responsible for the spill. The ship was reportedly docked in Venezuela and set sail in mid-July for Malaysia.
Delta Tankers, the ship's owner, has denied responsibility.
The officials at the press conference were unable to specify the value of the damage caused to Brazil from the disaster, but the head of Brazil's environmental protection agency Ibama, Eduardo Bim, said he believed the costs would be sky-high.
"It's going to be damage in the billions for sure," he said. (Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter Editing by Marguerita Choy)