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Oil Spill From Syria Threatens Cyprus Shores

Oil spill
An oil spill from Syria’s largest refinery is closing in on the shores of Cyprus. Credit: Planet Labs/Twitter

An oil spill originating from Syria’s largest refinery has proliferated across the Mediterranean Sea and is inching towards Cyprus’ Karpas peninsula. The treacherous oil slick, which is nearly the size of New York City, has seeped across international waters after leaking from a Syrian power plant a little over a week ago.

Although the spill appears to be partially dissolving, it still poses a venerable threat to the country’s ecosystems: a video of two men removing oil from the waters shows the corpse of a young turtle.

“It seems that small parts have detached,” said Costas Kadis, the Agriculture Minister of the island, to Cyprus Mail.

“That was the image we got from satellite images we received from the European Maritime Safety Agency. We want to make sure of the extent,” he said, adding a fisheries department vessel was also in the area.

“So far nothing alarming has been identified and that is why the search area under investigation is expanding. The goal is to cover the wider sea area northeast of Cape Greco.”

Cyprus’ fisheries department found that the oil contents was clearly decomposing, but also noted that “At the same time, an investigation is being carried out for confirmation using marine and airborne means as well as using any information we receive regarding petroleum residues.”

Turkey and Cyprus have rushed to provide emergency safety measures to prevent as much damage as possible from the spill. Teams armed with sponges and hoses are working on the ground to remove as much oil as they can. Two Turkish ships are en route to the island to aid in the containment. The Greek Cypriot government is also working with the European Maritime Safety Agency to bring an oil recovery vessel to the area.

A 400-meter long wall has been installed off the Karpas peninsula to protect the island’s beaches.

Syrian Oil Spill Threatens Israel as well as Cyprus

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

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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