Oil spill from power station spreads along Syria's coast

Government departments on alert as work gets under way to clean up coastal waters

A satellite image shows the oil spill off the coast of Syria. Planet Labs Inc via AP
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A massive oil spill caused by leakage from a power plant at a Syrian refinery is spreading along the coast of the Mediterranean country, state news agency Sana said on Wednesday.

Satellite photos showed the spill had reached the coastal town of Jableh, about 20 kilometres north of the refinery in the town of Baniyas. Syria's environmental department and the municipality of the coastal province of Latakia have placed all concerned departments on alert, Sana said.

It said work was under way to clean the coast in the rocky areas.

The Syrian government on Tuesday said that maintenance teams at Baniyas Thermal Station had brought a fuel leakage from one of the tanks under control.

Satellite images from Planet Labs Inc on Wednesday showed what appeared to be a 19-kilometre long spread oil spill from the Baniyas plant.

An image from Monday showed no sign of the slick.

The head of the Electricity Workers Syndicate at Tartous Workers Union, Dawoud Darwish, blamed cracks in one of the fuel tanks at the thermal station. He pointed out that the tank was filled with 15,000 tonnes of fuel.

Syria’s oil resources are mostly outside of government-controlled areas but its two refineries are operated by the government. Damascus is reliant on Iran for fuel but US Treasury sanctions have hindered the supply network, which spans Syria, Iran and Russia.

There has been a series of mysterious attacks on vessels in Middle Eastern waters, such as those off Syria's coast, for more than a year, amid rising tensions in the region between Iran, Israel and the United States.

In May, Syria’s foreign minister blamed Israel for attacks on oil tankers heading to Syria, saying the actions breached international law and would not go unpunished.

Updated: August 25, 2021, 1:48 PM