The oil leaked from a fuel tank in Siberia. An angry Putin asks: “Are we going to learn about emergency situations from social media?" The spill drifted about 12 kilometres contaminating a 350 sq km area. For experts, it might take five to ten years to clean up at a cost of US.5 billion.
Moscow (AsiaNews) – Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a state of emergency yesterday after 20,000 metric tonnes of highly toxic diesel oil leaked into a river in the Arctic Circle on 29 May from a fuel tank at a power plant in the Siberian city of Norilsk.
It took two days before local authorities noticed the spill, which infuriated Putin. In a televised press conference, Russia’s strongman slammed the top brass of the company that owns the plant, Norilsk Nickel, the world's leading nickel and palladium producer.
“Why did government agencies only find out about this, two days after the fact?" he asked the subsidiary's chief, Sergei Lipin. "Are we going to learn about emergency situations from social media?"
The president ordered an investigation into the spill. A manager at the power plant has already been detained in connection with the accident. Meanwhile, the government has sent additional personnel to assist with the clean-up operations.
The leaked oil drifted some 12 kilometres from the accident site contaminating a 350 sq km area. According to press reports, this is the second worst accident of its kind in the country, the first in the Arctic, one of the regions of the world most affected by global warming.
According to Geophysical Research Letters, the average temperature above the Arctic Circle is already two degrees higher than that of the pre-industrial era. At this rate, the Arctic Ocean will be ice-free – and open to shipping – by 2050.
For environmental groups, this incident is comparable to the Exxon Valdez disaster, when an oil tanker sank off the coast of Alaska in 1989, spilling 37,000 metric tonnes of oil into the sea.
Quoted by the BBC, Oleg Mitvol, former deputy head of Russia's environmental watchdog Rosprirodnadzor, said that the clean-up could cost 100 billion rubles (US.5 billion) and take between five and 10 years.