Israel is cleaning up from a devastating recent oil spill, and the source of the spill is still unknown. Israeli Officials have called it one of the country’s worst ecological disasters in decades.
Tar began washing up on Israel’s beaches last week, and according to The New York Times, the tar is spread across more than 100 miles of coastline from Israel to southern Lebanon. Israel’s interior minister has advised people to stay away from the beaches as cleanup continues.
Israeli news site Haaretz reported that the disaster dumped large amounts of tar onto the sea floor and rocky areas making up a third of Israel’s shore, and more tar was reported on Thursday.
The spill has devastated sea life in the Mediterranean, and will set back three decades of efforts to protect and renew biodiversity along the coastline, Shaul Goldstein, the director of Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority, told The New York Times.
Authorities suspect the spill came from a leak in a passing ship, but the country’s Environmental Protection Ministry (EPM) said it only learned about the problem when tar began to wash up on beaches on Feb. 17. An investigation into the incident is underway, but a gag order issued by an Israeli court in Haifa has restricted publication of many details about the case.
According to the Jerusalem Post, the investigation was focusing on a list of ten different oil tankers that may have been responsible for the spill. Tests on the oil’s composition will help to identify which oil tanker may have leaked. Satellite images provided by the European Maritime Safety Agency have pinpointed an area of 3.9 square miles, 31 miles offshore, where the spill likely occurred.
The Jerusalem Post reported that with the help of about 2,000 volunteers, more than 70 tons of tar was cleaned from beaches by Thursday. The EPM estimates that a total of 1,200 tons has so far washed ashore, and more may wash up in Israel’s northern shores, where the rockier terrain makes cleanup more difficult.
Click through the slideshow above to see images of the cleanup on Israel’s shores.
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