Israel began cleanup work after the devastating Mediterranean oil spill

Last week, an offshore oil spill deposited dozens of tons of tar onto Israel’s Mediterranean coastline after a heavy storm in the area. According to Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority, the spill is “one of the most serious ecological disasters” in the country’s history.

Sea birds, fish, and turtles were covered in oily residue. A young fin whale on a beach in southern Israel died of ingesting thick and black tar. One species that ecologists are concerned about the most is Dendropoma petraeum, a reef-building snail. Due to global warming, the number of snails on the Israeli coast has plunged, making the species easily injured by other ecological disasters.

Officials also warned people to avoid going to affected beaches because tar exposure may damage people’s health or irritate their skin.

Last Sunday, Israel closed all its Mediterranean shore while begining cleanup work to rescue harmed wildlife. Thousands of volunteers from the Israeli nonprofit group EcoOcean helped remove tar from beaches, and soldiers joined the rescue.

After extensive efforts, there were no more oil slicks visible off the Israeli coast. However, the Environmental Protection Ministry said that the predicted large waves this week could carry tar from beach to beach, bringing difficulties to cleanup work.

The offender is still under investigation. Whatever the result is, the spill’s consequences will injure the Israeli delicate ecosystem in many years and cannot be reversed.

Volunteers clean up tar on the Mediterranean shore.

photo:Ariel Schalit/ AP

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