The incident took place in the Israeli port of Ashdod, tens (or hundreds) of tonnes of oil spilled from a ship. Experts talk about the important mass that is set to “get worse” in the coming days. Some 80 percent of the coastline between Ras Naqoura and Tyre has been touched. Immediate action is needed.
Beirut (AsiaNews) – An environmental disaster of enormous proportions risks affecting a large part of the eastern Mediterranean coast.
The accident in the Israeli port of Ashdod, the most important in the country, has already had its terrible effects on the beaches of southern Lebanon, for what experts have already called the worst environmental disaster in decades.
Initial reports referred to an unspecified oil spill from vessels off the Israeli coast. A preliminary note from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Environment Minister Gila Gamliel links the catastrophe to “tens, if not hundreds, of tonnes of oil spilled from a ship, in the port of Ashdod.”
In two days, the oil has already reached the coasts of southern Lebanon, where some of the country's most beautiful nature reserves are located. In Beirut the alarm has already been raised about the white sands, pebbles, rocks and even turtles affected by the oil spill.
Along the coast from Ras Naqoura to Tyre, black tar balls, forming a kind of dirty, sticky line pointing north, have invaded these protected sites, appreciated by locals as well as tourists,.
The origin of the accident appears to be established, but doubts remain as to the true extent of the disaster, the nature of the oil, the volume and the actual danger. Lebanese scientists are now concentrated on examining all the elements.
“At the moment we are analysing collected samples,” said Mouin Hamze, Secretary General of the National Council for Scientific Research of Lebanon (CNRS-L), speaking to L'Orient-Le Jour. “We cannot comment at the moment on the component of the polluting matter that has arrived in Tyre, nor on how we can deal with it.”
Environmentalists and experts are very concerned about the oil slick, which has already travelled a long way up to the Lebanese coast, sign that it is a huge mass and that the situation “is bound to get worse in the coming days”.
“In this region sea currents go from south to north,” Hamze said. “This is why it went from the port of Ashdod to southern Lebanon. And it could continue its run north” unless it “heads out into the open sea, the preferable option” over “settling on the seabed.”
There is no shortage of accusations in Beirut that Israeli authorities, the UN and the Blue Plan, one of Regional Activity Centres of the Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP) of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), failed to sound the alarm.
“It is true that not much can be done against an oil slick,” said Hamze, “but we would at least have tried to contain it and prepare ourselves. Let us not forget that a disaster of this magnitude also implies taking responsibility.”
Hassan Hamza, director of the Tyre Marine Nature Reserve, points out that “at least six sites have already been affected by the oil slick, or 80 per cent of the coastline between Ras Naqoura and Tyre. We must now prepare for a clean-up that promises to be a long one.”
“Our coastline and numerous species that inhabit the local nature reserve are in danger,” said Tyre Mayor Hassan Dbouk.
The Middle East chapter of Greenpeace also called for “immediate action” to deal with the disaster.