Israel scrambles to clean up beaches after massive tar pollution
Published on: Amended:
Israeli authorities on Sunday warned people to stay away from the country’s Mediterranean coast to avoid massive tar pollution, as thousands of laborers and volunteers worked to clean up contaminated beaches.
Powerful winds and unusually high waves hit all of Israel’s Mediterranean coastline on Tuesday and Wednesday, with tons of tar staining 160 kilometers (96 miles) from beaches from Rosh Hanikra, just south of Lebanon, to Ashkelon just north. of Gaza.
A joint statement from the ministries of the interior, environmental protection and health, called on the population to stay away “from beaches for swimming, sport and recreation, until further notice. “.
“Exposure to tar can endanger public health,” the statement said.
The tar, which has killed many sea creatures, was apparently the result of “tens to hundreds of tons” of oil being discharged from a ship, according to estimates from the Department of Environmental Protection.
A massive clean-up operation was launched involving thousands of volunteers and soldiers on loan from the army.
During a visit to a beach in the southern city of Ashdod, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the government would allocate funds to support the cleanup on Monday.
Visiting the beach alongside Netanyahu, Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel said they needed “tens of millions of shekels” to clean up the beaches, noting plans to continue the polluting vessel – once it is located.
“We have to look to the future – this event and others like it around the world show us how crucial it is to wean ourselves off these polluting fuels and switch to renewable energies,” Gamliel said in comments relayed by Netanyahu’s office.
All but two of Israel’s 100 Mediterranean public beaches have been closed for the winter, with the bathing season scheduled to open on March 20.
“Our goal is to open the beaches on time,” said Gamliel.
It was not just tar that washed up on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean as a result of the storm.
On Nitzanim Beach near the southern town of Ashkelon, the carcass of a nearly 17-meter (55-foot) male fin whale was discovered Thursday.
The Nature and Parks Authority had determined that the whale’s state of decomposition indicated that its death had occurred about two weeks ago, meaning it could not be linked to the pollution from the tar.
Nature and Parks Authority workers used a tractor and shovel on Sunday to dig a huge grave on the sandy beach, into which the whale – the second largest mammal in the world after the blue whale – was pushed .
© 2021 AFP