Oil slick threatens eastern Mediterranean

A major oil slick was spreading north from Lebanon along the Syrian coast last night and could devastate beaches as far away as Turkey and Cyprus, local ecologists and the United Nations have warned.

The slick, which has been growing since the start of hostilities, follows the bombing by the Israelis of fuel tanks at the Jiyyeh power station south of Beirut. Up to 35,000 tons of crude oil are believed to have escaped, making it one of the worst pollution incidents recorded in the eastern Mediterranean.

Tourist resorts along the Lebanese coast have been covered with a thick layer of sludge and fish spawning grounds have been destroyed. The slick is estimated to be more than 50 miles (80 kilometers) long and to have polluted six miles of Syrian coastline.

“Every day that passes will increase the potential damage of this tragic incident,” said U.N. environment program director Achim Steiner. “The spill is rapidly taking on a regional dimension. We must also be concerned about the short- and long-term impacts on the marine environment, including the biodiversity upon which so many people depend for their livelihoods and living, via tourism and fishing.”

WWF calls this catastrophic

Oil pollution in the Mediterranean following Israel’s bombardment of the Lebanese Jiyeh power station has reached “catastrophic proportions”, said a WWF statement in Vienna Thursday.

About 30,000 tonnes of heating oil had leaked into the sea. It could not be excluded that the oil slick would reach Turkey and Cyprus, said the WWF – Worldwide Fund for Nature – in a press release.

It said satellite photos made available by the UN Environment Programme had confirmed its fears. A 90-km-long and 10 km wide oil slick was drifting northwards from Lebanon, and had already contaminated ten kilometres of the Syrian coast.

The WWF said rare sea turtles were threatened with extinction, as well as fish stocks already decimated by over fishing, and migratory birds.

“By now the talk is of 30,000 tonnes of heating oil. That would without doubt be the biggest oil pollution in the history of the Mediterranean,” said WWF expert Stephan Lutter.

He said he hoped that despite the war, cleaning work could begin as soon as possible. “The oil has been drifting in the Mediterranean for alomst three weeks. Each day more makes the situation worse for human beings and nature,” warned Lutter.

If not removed, the oil would form lumps and sink to the bottom of the sea. From there, its poisons would get into the food chain, and could ultimately, via fish, get back to humans as well.

Source: Ya Libnan (Lebanon)