At a conference in Greece yesterday, UN officials finally drew up an action plan to tackle the huge oil spill that is spreading along the Lebanese and Syrian coastline. The 15,000 tonne spill could be the Mediterranean’s worst ever maritime disaster and was caused by Israel’s bombing of a Lebanese power station.
The officials believe the eventual size of the spill could be close to 35,000 tonnes, similar in size to the official estimates of the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska in 1989. The spill will cost an estimated 50 million Euros to clean up.
It is only since the ceasefire was agreed that the clean up can finally get underway. The oil slick – some 87 miles long – has already spread to the Syrian port of Latakia and could spread to beaches in Turkey, Cyprus and Greece. However, ongoing Israeli sea and air blockades are still hampering efforts, according to officials.
Local environmental and conservation groups argue that some of the oil has settled on the sea floor, threatening tuna spawning areas. They are also worried that slicks on beaches will prevent young green turtles, an endangered species, from reaching the sea after they hatch.
Local fisherman are also worried that the spill is decimating fish stocks. The fishermen in the small town of Byblos, 35 kilometres north of Beirut, have been forced to stay in harbour for more than a month because of the slick.
There are no winners in war, but the spill threatens to be a lethal legacy of this futile conflict.