Saturday, February 27, 2021

Israel’s beaches hit by historic oil spill


It would be the worst oil spill the country has ever seen. Thousands of volunteers and soldiers began this weekend to clean up blackened Mediterranean beaches in Israel, pollution from the spill of “Tens to hundreds of tonnes” fuel oil from a ship, according to the Department of the Environment. 170 kilometers of coastline, or 40% of the coastline, are affected, according to the daily Haaretz cited by the International mail. So much so that the cleanup could take years and cost tens of millions of shekels. Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu even went to the beaches of Ashdod, south of Tel Aviv, alongside the Minister of the Environment. The government called on the population “Not to go to the beach to swim or play sports until further notice”.

It is also, of course, a tragedy for the local fauna. Starting with the turtles, crabs and starfish accustomed to the Israeli coast. The Israeli authorities had initially linked to this oil spill the death of a whale seventeen meters long, stranded Thursday, February 18 in the south of the country, on the beach of Nitzanim. Eventually, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority concluded that while the cetacean’s autopsy found significant amounts of fuel oil, the animal had already been dead for at least two weeks, according to the advance of its decomposition.

Nine suspected vessels

The oil spill took place last week, in the midst of a winter storm, as strong winds and particularly high waves rocked Israel’s shores. The fuel oil was spotted late, which made it difficult to manage its progress at sea. According to satellite images, the leak took place about 50 kilometers from the coast on February 11. Israel is now trying, with the support of European agencies, to determine which ship could be responsible for the oil spill.

According to Environment Minister Gila Gamliel, nine boats were in the area on February 11. “There is a good chance that we will be able to locate the vessel in question”, she said, adding that Israel could take legal action.



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