Israel shuts down its entire Mediterranean coast as massive oil spill raises health concerns
Israelis should stay away from Mediterranean beaches, authorities warned on Sunday, after volunteers helping the cleanup of the tar that has smothered 160km of coastline were hospitalized, apparently after inhaling toxic fumes.
The population should “not to go [to the beaches] to swim, or do sports or leisure activity until further notice,” a warning, jointly issued by the Health, Interior and Environmental Protection ministries on Sunday, read. “Exposure to tar could harm public health.”
The announcement comes after several volunteers, out of thousands who’d helped clean up the aftermath of the oil spill on Saturday, felt sick and required hospitalization. Exposure to toxic fumes is believed to be the reason for their condition.
Volunteers will still be allowed to operate on the coast, but only after registering with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and undergoing special training.
They’ll be fighting the tar together with the military, as Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff, Aviv Kohavi, promised to deploy “thousands of IDF troops” to the Mediterranean coastline.
The spill of dozens of tons of oil occurred during a winter storm last week, with bad weather preventing the Israeli authorities from detecting it in a timely manner and dealing with the tar at sea. The story made headlines in the local media after the corpse of a 17-meter baby fin whale washed up on the Mediterranean shore together with dead turtles, fish and sea creatures.
The results of the whale’s autopsy were announced on Sunday, with “black liquid” discovered in its lungs. However, it was too early to say whether oil was the reason for the death of the sea mammal, Nature and Parks Authority said.
Environmental groups have called the spill the worst disaster to hit Israel in decades, estimating that the recovery from it could take months or even years.
Ten days since the disaster, the Israeli authorities still haven’t found the exact source of the spill. They believe that one of nine ships passing about 50 km from shore could be responsible.
With satellite images and modelling of wave movements used to narrow the search, “there is a more-than-reasonable chance that we will be able to locate the specific ship,” Gila Gamliel, Environmental Protection Minister, said.
If the culprit is found, Israel may go to court, seeking compensation from insurance companies that will be used to deal with the aftermath of the spill, the minister explained.
Courtesy of rt.com
Arctic Circle oil spill prompts Putin to declare state of emergency #OilSpill #ArcticCircle #StateOfEmergency
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has declared a state of emergency after 20,000 tonnes of diesel oil leaked into a river within the Arctic Circle.
The spill happened when a fuel tank at a power plant near the Siberian city of Norilsk collapsed last Friday.
The power plant’s director Vyacheslav Starostin has been taken into custody until 31 July, but not yet charged.
The plant is owned by a subsidiary of Norilsk Nickel, which is the world’s leading nickel and palladium producer.
The Russian Investigative Committee (SK) has launched a criminal case over the pollution and alleged negligence, as there was reportedly a two-day delay in informing the Moscow authorities about the spill.
Ground subsidence beneath the fuel storage tanks is believed to have caused the spill. Arctic permafrost has been melting in exceptionally warm weather for this time of year.
President Putin expressed anger after discovering officials only learnt about the incident on Sunday.
Russian Minister for Emergencies Yevgeny Zinichev told Mr Putin that the Norilsk plant had spent two days trying to contain the spill, before alerting his ministry.
The leaked oil drifted some 12km (7.5 miles) from the accident site, turning long stretches of the Ambarnaya river crimson red.
In a televised video conference on Wednesday, Mr Putin criticised the head of the company over its response.
“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 region’s governor, Alexander Uss, had earlier told President Putin that he became aware of the oil spill on Sunday after “alarming information appeared in social media”.
The spill has contaminated a 350 sq km (135 sq mile) area, state media report.
In a statement, Norilsk Nickel said the incident had been reported in a “timely and proper” way.
The state of emergency means extra forces are going to the area to assist with the clean-up operation.
The accident is believed to be the second largest in modern Russian history in terms of volume, an expert from the World Wildlife Fund, Alexei Knizhnikov, told the AFP news agency.
What can be done?
The incident has prompted stark warnings from environmental groups, who say the scale of the spill and geography of the river mean it will be difficult to clean up.
Greenpeace has compared it to the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska.
Oleg Mitvol, former deputy head of Russia’s environmental watchdog Rosprirodnadzor, said there had “never been such an accident in the Arctic zone”.
He said the clean-up could cost 100bn roubles (£1.2bn; $1.5bn) and take between five and 10 years.
Courtesy of BBC News