Volunteers in southern Lebanon begin removing tar from beaches after an oil spill that could endanger marine life.
The Lebanese began cleaning up beaches on Saturday after an oil spill deposited tar over large swathes of the coast in the southern part of the country.
More than a week ago, a storm threw tons of black, sticky stuff onto beaches in neighboring Israel, apparently after an oil tanker leaked off the Israeli coast.
Within days, the spill spread to southern Lebanon, where clusters of tar-contaminated beaches stretch from the border town of Naqura to the southern city of Tire.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said about $ 14 million has been allocated to clean up the country’s coastline in what has been described as Israel’s biggest environmental disaster.
In Lebanon, the management of the Tire Coast Nature Reserve, one of the country’s last remaining sandy beaches and an important nesting site for endangered loggerhead and green turtles, said the spill could put in danger to marine life and biodiversity in the region.
Mouin Hamze, director of the reserve, told reporters that the clean-up operation will last at least 15 days.
“We will start removing the tar stains from the coast of the reserve, and hundreds of volunteers will help with the clean-up operation,” he said.
“The nature reserve suffers from around 2 tonnes of tar, 90 percent of which is hidden under the sand,” he added.
The protected area covers 3.8 square kilometers (nearly 1.5 square miles) of the beach as well as the adjacent sea waters, according to its website.
The reserve was included in Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance in 2012.
Hamze had previously said that the pollution could continue to wash up on the Lebanese coast for up to three months.
A survey of the area using drones is not yet complete, but he said the damage was extensive in the south while tar had even landed on the beach further north of the capital Beirut.
United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) spokesperson Andrea Tenenti told the DPA news agency that UNIFIL is studying ways to possibly help Lebanon counter the threat of an oil spill. .
“UNIFIL has been contacted by local authorities to see what assistance can be provided within our available capacities and equipment. We are reviewing these requests to see how we can help, ”Tenenti said.