Lebanese oil slick reaches Syrian shores
A previous slick soiled the coastline on July 26 after air strikes by Israeli warplanes on an electric power station south of Beirut ruptured storage tanks that spilled their contents into the Mediterranean.
The oil slick, considered the worst environmental catastrophe ever to befall Lebanon, has already polluted up to three quarters of that country's 200-kilometre (124-mile) coastline.
Syrian officials said the oil reached their coast between the border with Lebanon and Tartus on Saturday, affecting sandy beaches in the area that had already been cleaned after the first slick washed ashore in July.
The pollution first hit Syria on July 26 along 10 kilometers of coast between the frontier and Tartus, northwest of Damascus, Hassan Murjan told AFP.
The beaches were cleaned, but not rocky areas where removing the sludge is more difficult, the head of environment services in Tartus added.
More oil appeared on August 2 on rocks along the same stretch of coastline, he said.
"We saw that rocks on the shore were covered in oil again," the official SANA news agency quoted director general of ports Mohsen Hassan as saying.
"Floating patches of oil were found in the sea very far from one another," he added, explaining that because the oil was spread over a wide area and was very vicious, a mechanical clean-up was difficult.
"As long as the Lebanese coastline has not been cleaned there will be a risk for Syria," Murjan said. "We're waiting for the clean-up in Lebanon so we can get started again."
To protect the coastline in the meantime, special nets have been strung in different locations to trap lumps of oil, Hassan said.
Fishing and tourism in the area have been badly affected by the pollution, Murjan noted.
Marine life has also suffered, especially smaller surface-feeding fish and turtles which come to Syrian beaches to lay their eggs, he added.
According to Adib Saad, president of the association for the protection of marine life, the oil slick "has killed millions of eggs", SANA reported.
Saad warned that the pollution posed a future threat to marine life in the area.
Up to 15,000 tons of fuel oil spilled into the sea following two Israeli air strikes on the coastal power station at Jijeh, 30 km south of the Lebanese capital.
The attacks came amid Israel's blistering 34-day offensive against Hizbullah.
Subsequent fires burned for 12 days.
Last month the environmental group Greenpeace Mediterranean said that cleaning the massive oil spill could take up to a year.
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