Cleanup of Major Oil Spill from Lebanon Power Plant Delayed by Intense Fighting

A direct hit by Israeli warplanes on a coastal power plant in Lebanon has released more than 100,000 barrels of fuel oil into the Mediterranean Sea. Cleanup of the environmental disaster will have to wait until a lull in the fighting, according to U.N. sources. Although the environmental damage is already clear, world efforts to relieve the humanitarian crisis in Lebanon have obscured the dire nature of the situation. Long-term effects, environmental watchdogs warn, could be devastating.

The Israeli naval blockade and ongoing military operations continue to hamper any effort to organize a cleanup plan. To date, the spilled oil so far has spread out over approximately thirty percent of Lebanon's coastline, or a total of 50 miles. The oil is also said to be already hitting Syrian beaches. Without immediate mitigation, some experts say that the spill could eventually affect Cyprus and Turkey.

Reportedly, Kuwait has sent truckloads of cleanup supplies, but the equipment and cleanup crews are stalled in Beirut, awaiting cessation of hostilities before they can tackle the disaster. Local estimates of cleanup costs range as high as $50 million, which could take as long as six months to accomplish. The spill has already been compared in magnitude to that of the ERIKA, which broke up off the coast of France and spewed 70,000 barrels of oil into the Atlantic Ocean.