More than just people

It’s not just Lebanese civilians suffering from Israeli bombardment:

Lebanon’s oil spill, caused by Israeli bombardment of oil storage units at a power plant, may rival the leakage from the Exxon Valdez in Alaska in 1989 if left untreated, the United Nations Environment Program said.

“In the worst case scenario, and if all the oil contained in the bombed power plant at Jiyyeh leaked into the Mediterranean Sea, the Lebanese oil spill could well rival the Exxon Valdez disaster of 1989,” the UN said in an e-mailed statement today.

The spill has yet to be cleaned up or assessed more than three weeks after the bombing of the coastal Jiyyeh power plant south of Beirut because of the continuation of hostilities, Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Program, said in the statement.

The spill, which has polluted around two-thirds of the Lebanese coast and spread into neighbouring Syria, may threaten East Mediterranean countries such as Cyprus and Turkey, Lebanon’s Environment Minister Yacoub Sarraf has said.

About 10,000 tonnes (about 3.1 million gallons) of oil has escaped from the Jiyyeh power plant and 35,000 tonnes (10.8 million gallons) in total may be spilt, the UN’s shipping agency, the International Maritime Organization has said.

The Exxon Valdez, which struck the Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound in Alaska, spilled more than 11 million gallons of crude oil, making it the largest spill in U.S. history.

And the Lebanese response is entirely understandable:

Lebanon plans to sue Israel over a huge oil spill from a bomb-damaged power plant that’s been described as the country’s worst environmental disaster, a government official said Friday.

Environment Minister Yacoub Sarraf said Lebanon will take legal action for “this incredible crime” but didn’t give any further details.

It also was unclear whether the proposed suit would be part of possible wider compensation claims by Lebanon for damage to roads and other civilian infrastructure during the Israeli offensive against Hezbollah guerrillas.

At least 110,000 barrels of oil poured into the Mediterranean Sea after Israeli bombs hit the Jiyeh power facility, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of Beirut, on July 16. Nearly a month later, one tank was still burning and spreading “toxic air” across portions of the country, said Sarraf.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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