After tar pollution, the authorities have closed the entire Mediterranean coast. The cleanup could take years and is already causing health problems for volunteers.
Israel’s authorities have declared the country’s entire Mediterranean beaches a danger zone and have closed them until further notice. The reason is tar pollution, which was found on a length of 170 kilometers of coastline from Rosh Hanikra on the Lebanese border down to the Gaza Strip. The source of the pollution is still unclear. It is believed that one or more tankers accidentally or intentionally dumped oil into the sea. The Israeli authorities speak of one of the worst maritime pollution in decades. Numerous animals have also been killed.
Information received by Israel from the European Maritime Safety Agency suggests that the oil spill originated around 50 kilometers off the coast of Israel. The sea had been very stormy for several days last week. Ten ships were identified that could be possible polluters – oil samples should now provide certainty.
In addition to some turtles and sea birds that were polluted with tar and perished, a dead fin whale was discovered on a beach in southern Israel on Thursday. During an autopsy, a black liquid was discovered in the lungs of the 17-meter-long young animal. “It is not yet clear whether this was the reason for the death and whether this is related to the oil pollution,” said the responsible veterinarian Roni King on Sunday. “But it’s very suspicious.”
Thousands of volunteers arrived at the weekend to clean up the polluted beach sections. However, some of them had to be hospitalized after apparently inhaling toxic fumes. The Israeli nature and park authority, which is responsible for the beaches, therefore called on people no longer to clean up the dirt themselves. Helpers should register and only go to work with protective clothing. Soldiers have now also been recruited for the work.
Politics also became active. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inspected the pollution on a beach near Ashdod. President Reuven Rivlin called for a “national plan” to prevent an ecological catastrophe. Environment Minister Gila Gamliel announced government money for emergency measures. “This process won’t be done in the next few days,” she said. “We are preparing for a long and hard work.” The nature and park authorities even fear that the cleanup could take years.