Spill of 10,000 tons of fuel oil into the Mediterranean Sea

July 29th, 2006 | Posted in Environment, Other, War and Terror


Original report from Beirut Independent Media Center

At least 10,000 tons of heavy fuel oil have been spilled into the Lebanese sea, causing an environmental catastrophe with severe effects on health, biodiversity and tourism, environmentalists and the Environment Ministry said Wednesday. 15,000 tons are expected to leak into the Mediterranean from another tank that is still burning. Two weeks ago, Israeli bombs targeted the Jiyye power station, located on the coast 30 kilometers south of Beirut. Part of the oil in storage tanks has been burning ever since and the other part is leaking into the Mediterranean.

“The pollution has affected around 70 to 80 kilometers of both public and private rocky and sandy beaches from Damour, south of Beirut, through to Chekka in the North,” Berge Hadjian, the Environment Ministry’s director general said Wednesday. Another 15,000 tons of oil are expected to leak into the sea, he added. The expected 15,000 tons are from a 25,000-ton burning tank that has burned away 10,000 already.

The ministry has issued a report that included a warning for the citizens to stay away from polluted sites along the coast.

Map of the oil spill

On 13 July 2006, at 4:23 a.m. Jieh power utility located 30 Km South of Beirut directly on the coastline was hit by Israeli bombs. Part of the storage tanks caught fire and are still burning 10 days on. The fuel that did not catch on fire was spilled into the Mediterranean Sea as a result of the blast.

Due to winds blowing South West to North East and water current movement the oil spill was partly carried out to sea and partly dispersed along the coast of Lebanon. So far it has affected 70 – 80 km of both public and private rocky and sandy beaches along the Lebanese coast including public and private marinas/ports for boats/ships of fishermen from the Damour region south of Beirut through to Chekka in the North.

It is also possible that the Israeli war frigate that was hit by a missile might have spilled some diesel oil.

Lebanese Government’s Response

Once the initial assessment was completed, the Ministry of Environment contacted the Kuwaiti and Jordanian Governments for assistance. The Jordaina Government is ready to send experts from the Akaba Area in Jordan to Lebanon to provide technical assistance. The Environment Public Authority in Kuwait is ready to send to Lebanon about 3 containers of material and equipment for fighting such a spill. The private sector in Lebanon that has less than modest capacity was also contacted. Minimal amounts of dispersants, booms, adsorbents, and skimmers are readily available; however, only enough for spills from tankers that are delivering fuel at ports or similar cases. They are not equipped for major environmental accidents (oil spills). REMPEC-MAP UNEP at the United Nations Environment Programme has also been contacted; however, they have provided minimal assistance untill now.

Reports detailing what was found were sent to the Lebanese Higher Relief Council and the Council of Ministers detailing the crisis and suggesting potential solutions. A pilot cleanup was speedily approved and carried out on the 24th of July at the Sporting Club – Ras-Beirut site. This site is facing technical difficulties due to a multitude of factors. Another cleanup was commissioned in the North of Lebanon at the Saint Antoine Sandy Beach Resort and is making modest success.

A complete oil spill cleanup operation will cost in the range of tens of millions of euros and will span a long period of time.

The Ministry of Environment continues getting in touch with its partners and seeking legal, technical, & financial assistance from available Funds designated for such oil spills in the Mediterranean Sea. It also continues to monitor the situation and is reviewing operational responses and clean up programmes in addition to preparing contingency plans for impact assessment.

As this update is prepared, a team of officers from the Ministry are heading towards the North to scope out the oil spill impact on the beaches and shores of the North. We aim to assess the Southern coastline South of the Damour area as soon as cease fire is called and when safe passage to the South is ensured.

The Ministry of Environment asks the Lebanese community to assist it in its work and has prepared a Ministerial brief along these lines.

Some Impacts on the Environment

  • The marine ecosystem (fish species) is active in the summer and has been adversely affected, but the degree of damage cannot be estimated at this point in time. Thankfully, the bird migratory season had recently ended and therefore the numbers of birds effected is expected to be low.
  • A small percentage of the heavy fuel oil might have evaporated due to exposure to the elements and does not have a lasting effect.
  • A small percentage of the oil might be naturally decomposing because of the natural biodegradation process.
  • A large percentage of the spill has emulsified and solidified along the Lebanese shore, clinging to sand, rock and stone as the following pictures will show.
  • Some of the biological impacts after an oil spill can include:
    • Physical and chemical alteration of natural habitats such as when oil is incorporated into sediments
    • Physical smothering effect on the marine life
    • Lethal or sub-lethal toxic effects on the marine life
    • Changes in the marine ecosystem resulting from oil effects on key organisms e.g. increased abundance of intertidal algae following the death of limpets which normally eat the algae.

Impacts on Human Health

Some possible short term adverse effects might include nausea, headaches and skin (dermatological) problems in residents living close to the effected areas or in beach goers getting in touch with the oil.

More info and pictures of the damage and massive pollution

» News article from Al Jazeera

» News article from Yahoo! News (AFP)

» News article from Reuters AlertNet

» Pictures of Jiyyeh thermal power plant burning from jiehonline.com

» Pictures of Ramlet al-Bayda (beach in Beirut) from bloggingbeirut.com

» Pictures of the port of Byblos and Ramlet al-Bayda from

1 Comment »

oil spills should be controlled as soon as possible to prevent environmental damage;,*

Comment by Chase Peterson — October 5th, 2010 @ 8:18 AM

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