August 2, 2006

Oil plant leak damages third of Lebanon’s coast-IMO

By Stefano Ambrogi

LONDON (Reuters) - Leaking oil from a bombed power station
in Lebanon has damaged about a third of the country's
coastline, the world's top maritime body said on Wednesday.

The U.N. International Maritime Organization (IMO) said in
a statement that some 10,000 metric tons of fuel oil had
spilled into the Mediterranean from the damaged Jiyyeh plant
south of Beirut.

It said another 25,000 metric tons of the heavy oil slurry
-- similar to the type that devastated beaches in northern
Spain following the Prestige oil tanker disaster in 2002 --
could still escape from ruptured storage tanks.

"The Lebanese coastline, for some 70-80 km north of the
power plant, has been affected. These areas are composed of
sandy beaches, rocky beaches, fishing ports and marinas," the
IMO said.

Lebanon's Environment Ministry says Israeli jets hit the
storage tanks on July 13 and 15 and described the leakage as an
environmental catastrophe.

Ecologists say the spill is especially threatening because
fish spawn and sea turtles, including the green turtle which is
endangered in the Mediterranean, nest on Lebanon's coast.

IMO is co-ordinating an international effort to assist
Lebanon in dealing with the disaster.

The Prestige which leaked 80 percent of its 77,000 metric
ton cargo cost Spain dear. The oil damaged large stretches of
the coast, devastating tourism, fishing and wildlife.