Oil spill off Israel reaches south Lebanese beaches, cleaning begins

Volunteers in Lebanon began cleaning beaches on Saturday after an oil spill deposited tar over large stretches of the coast in the southern part of the country.

A storm more than a week ago threw tonnes of the sticky, black substance onto beaches in neighbouring Israel, apparently after leaking from an oil tanker off the Israeli coast.

Within days the spill had spread to southern Lebanon, where clumps of tar contaminated beaches stretching from the border town of Naqura to the southern city of Tyre.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said about USD $14 million had been earmarked to clean up the country’s shoreline, in what has been described as Israel’s biggest environmental disaster.

In Lebanon, the management of Tyre Coast Nature Reserve, one of the country’s last remaining sandy beaches and an important nesting site for endangered loggerhead and green sea turtles, said the spill could endanger marine life and biodiversity in the area.

Mouin Hamze, director of the reserve, told reporters that the cleaning operation will take at least 15 days.

The protected zone covers 3.8 square kilometres of the beach as well as adjacent sea waters. The reserve was included in the Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance in 2012.

Hamze previously said that the pollution could continue washing up on Lebanese shores for up to three months.