BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) – A black coat of oil now covers the Lebanese capital’s once-beautiful sandy Mediterranean shore, spilled from a power plant that was knocked down by Israeli warplanes two weeks ago.

Fishermen say hundreds of oil-coated fish have been washed ashore in what is the country’s worst ever environmental disaster.

About 80 miles of Lebanon’s shores had been affected by a spill of more than 110,000 barrels of oil from the Jiyeh plant, about 12 miles south of Beirut, the city’s mayor, Abdel Monem Ariss, said Friday. The plant was in flames after it was hit in Israeli air raids, cutting electricity to many areas in the capital and south Lebanon.

“Depending on how the wind is blowing, I think many shores will be soiled with this oil spill,” Ariss told The Associated Press.

A shipment of 10 trucks from Kuwait containing material and equipment was to arrive Friday night via Syria to help contain the spill, but crews cannot get to the shores to start cleanup work because of the hostilities, Ariss said.

“It’s going to take a long time to clean it because most of our shores are rocky shores and when the oil sticks to the rock you have to scrub it (by hand),” he said.

Fishermen on Beirut’s only sandy public beach of Ramlet al-Baida said the black slick appeared about 10 days ago. Some residents have said they had problems breathing.

Fisherman Salim Yazmanji, 32, said as many as 100 fish can wash up on every 30-foot stretch of the beach and that he had lost his livelihood.

“I have nothing but the sea,” Yazmanji said. “If you take the sea from a fisherman, he will die, like the fish.”

Ariss said it appeared other factors also contributed to the environmental disaster – a leak from an Egyptian commercial boat that was apparently hit by a Hezbollah missile off Beirut, another from an Israeli gunboat also hit by Hezbollah, as well as effluent from a cement factory in northern Lebanon that attacked by Israeli forces.

“It’s a little bit more than speculation. There are targets we knew contained oil and spilled; they received direct hit, some of them burned,” he said.

The Green Line Association, a Lebanese environmental group, said in a press release that four of the six fuel tanks at Jiyeh’s power plant have burned completely, while the fifth, which is the main cause of the spill, is still burning.

It said the Lebanese Environment Ministry was worried that the sixth tank, which is underground, will explode.

Ariss said if the spill is not contained soon it will spread to the rest of the Mediterranean.

“I think there will be more than Lebanon that is going to be involved in this oil spill,” he said.

“I think the marine life has been heavily affected and will continue to be affected as long as the oil remains in the waters and on the shores,” he added.

The marine environment includes the endangered green turtle.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.