Baniyas: massive crude oil spill threatens Mediterranean Sea
Maximum alert in Cyprus, the spill is expected to reach Karpas peninsula in the area controlled by pro-Ankara authorities. Turkish vice president assures a general mobilization to avert "an environmental disaster". The incident occurred last week in a power plant on the Syrian coast.
Damascus (AsiaNews/Agencies) - A massive crude oil spill into the sea, caused by a leak in a power plant located inside a Syrian oil refinery, is spreading along the Mediterranean coast. According to Sana state agency reports, and from what emerges from satellite images, the spill has already reached the coastal town of Jableh, about 20 km north of the Baniyas plant, and is now targeting the coast of the island of Cyprus. Last week, the Syrian Ministry of Environment and the authorities of Latakia province alerted all the necessary means and departments and urgently started the clean-up procedures, but this was not enough to contain the leak.
Within 24 hours of the incident, which occurred on August 24, technicians at the Baniyas Thermal Station managed to stop the spill and secure the tank. Satellite images released by Planet Labs Inc, however, showed what immediately appeared to be a huge tide of crude oil extending over 25 square kilometers.
The authorities of Cyprus are carefully monitoring the situation, fearing that oil may end up on their coasts upsetting a delicate environmental system. The models elaborated by the experts indicate that by nightfall the oil spill would have reached the peninsula of Karpas, in the northern area controlled by Turkey. Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay told Anadolu Agency that the country "is mobilizing all available means" to prevent the spill from turning "into an environmental disaster".
Dawoud Darwish, leader of the union of workers in the electrical sector in Tartous, says cracks in one of the tanks of the thermal power plant are to blame for the incident. Inside there were more than 15 thousand tons of fuel.
Syrian oil resources are mostly outside the areas controlled by the government, but the two refineries present on the territory are in the hands of Damascus that exploits their production. The availability crisis makes the Arab country - tormented by more than 10 years of conflict - dependent on Iran for fuel, but sanctions imposed by the U.S. government hinder the supply network involving Syria, Iran and Russia.
The past year has seen a series of mysterious attacks on ships in Middle Eastern waters, including off the coast of Syria. Episodes that have increased as a result of rising regional tensions between Iran, Israel and the United States. In May, Damascus' foreign minister accused the Jewish state of being responsible for "mysterious attacks" on oil tankers bound for Syria, in violation of international law.