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Syrian Power Plant Oil Spill Threatens Cyprus, Israel

Oil spill
The Syrian oil spill now threatening the coast of Cyprus and Israel. Credit: Twitter/Planet Labs

An oil spill from a Syrian power plant, containing anywhere from two to four tons of oil, is now threatening the entire coastline of Cyprus and Israel.

Cypriot authorities stated that the slick is expected to reach the north part of the politically divided island on Tuesday.

The Sentinel 1 satellite is taking photographs of the spill, which experts estimate to encompass one thousand square kilometers (386 square miles).

Oil spill
The Bamiyan oil spill as seen from the Copernicus satellite. The oil spill now threatens Cyprus and Israel. Credit: Facebook/Copernicus/Bruno Paganelli

A large oil slick heading from Syria to Cyprus, although a cause for concern, does not appear to consist of heavy crude oil but rather a more refined, lighter form of oil that is producing a sheen. The oil spill is from a power plant located in Baniyas, Syria.

The “TankerTrackers” oil spill news site stated on Tuesday morning that “The fuel leak from the power plant in Baniyas, Syria, is going to completely destroy the entire eastern coastline of Cyprus.”

The Copernicus/Sentinel 1 satellite continues to track the spill on Tuesday.

Costas Kadis, Cyprus’ Minister of Agriculture, stated that the Cypriot authorities are aware of the situation and are closely monitoring developments.

Syrian Oil Spill Second So Far in 2021

He stated to reporters, “we have been monitoring the situation systematically for days and we are ready to intervene, if necessary.”

The spill was first reported last week, when Syrian state media insisted that the power plant leak was an accident.

Syria’s electricity minister Ghassan al-Zamil told the pro-government newspaper Al-Watan yesterday that the size of the leak ranges from two to four tons of fuel. He then added that a committee had been formed to investigate the cause.

Initial satellite imagery appeared to indicate an oily sheen measuring 36 kilometers (22 miles) long but the most recent photographs shows that the spill is larger than previously thought, reaching deeper into the Mediterranean, according to the Times of Israel.

Projections call for the spill to “affect the Cape of Apostolos Andreas (at the northern tip of Cyprus) in the next 24 hours,” the Cypriot fisheries department said in a statement.

“No such thing as oil without disasters”

Officials from that department said that they had informed the authorities in the occupied north of Cyprus about the imminent oil spill threat, adding “the Republic of Cyprus is ready to respond and provide assistance if requested.

“Based on the National Emergency Plan for dealing with marine pollution from petroleum products, the Reaction Team met at the Joint Rescue Coordination Center to assess all data to take action,” the Fisheries Department added.

Maya Jacobs, who heads up Zalul, the Israeli marine environmental organization, said after learning about the spill that there was “no such thing as oil without disasters” adding the the Syrian event was “just another warning about oil pollution in our region.”

Several months ago, in February, Israel bore the brunt of an enormous oil discharge which emanated from a Syrian oil tanker in the Mediterranean.

Enormous amounts of heavy tar began washing up on the Mediterranean coast after a storm.

Over the following days, beaches all along Israel’s Mediterranean coast were contaminated and wildlife had been severely affected.

An investigation launched by the Israeli Environmental Protection Ministry indicated that a leak of “tens of tons of crude oil” had taken place between February 1 and 2.

The Syrian-owned tanker “Emerald — which was not insured — had spilled the oil approximately 130 kilometers (80 miles) out at sea, according to the Times. At that time, the London-based International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund agreed to pay damages related to the spill.

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