Israel’s beaches covered with tar after oil spill, killing turtles

A clump of tar on the beach, Israel, photo: Reuters/Amir Cohen
A clump of tar on the beach, Israel, photo: Reuters/Amir Cohen

Israel is trying to find the ship responsible for an oil spill that covered much of its Mediterranean shoreline with tar, an environmental blow that will take months or years to clean up, officials said.

Environmental groups called it a disaster and posted pictures of turtles covered in tar. Last week, a fin whale was found dead on the beach. The Nature and Parks Authority said an autopsy had found oil-based material in the whale’s body, with further tests pending.

Volunteers gathered on Sunday to remove the clumps of sticky black dirt from the beaches. Israel’s military said it was sending soldiers to help with the clean-up.

The event began last week during a winter storm, which made it harder to see the tar approaching and deal with it at sea, Israeli officials said.

Together with European agencies, Israel thinks the oil was spilled in the sea on February 11th oil by a ship passing about 50 km (21 miles) from shore. Satellite images were are being used to narrow the search.

Nine ships that were in the area at the time are being looked at, said Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel. “There is a more than reasonable chance that we will be able to locate the specific ship,” she told Ynet TV.

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