Emer­gency teams bat­tle oil spill in Ras Al-Zour

Power, wa­ter plants sealed NGO blames govt EPA vows ac­tion

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Nawara Fat­ta­hova and Agen­cies

KUWAIT: Emer­gency work­ers are bat­tling to con­tain an oil spill near a joint Kuwaiti-Saudi oil­field that stained beaches, threat­ened to dam­age power plants and wa­ter sta­tions and left long black slicks in the Ara­bian Gulf. “The ma­jor por­tion of the main oil spill has been re­moved,” Kuwait Petroleum Cor­po­ra­tion (KPC) spokesman Sheikh Talal Al-Khaled AlSabah said in a state­ment. Teams were still work­ing to clean other parts of the spill and coastal ar­eas, he said.

Footage from the En­vi­ron­ment Pub­lic Author­ity showed oil tar­ring the beaches and in the wa­ters off the southern area of Ras Al-Zour. Of­fi­cials have opened an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the spill. “There will be se­vere con­se­quences to those re­spon­si­ble for this in­ci­dent, and we will pros­e­cute them,” said Sheikh Ab­dul­lah Al-Sabah, head of the En­vi­ron­ment Pub­lic Author­ity. He urged res­i­dents to keep away from af­fected ar­eas, which lie north of the Khairan pri­vate beach and re­sort area, where many Kuwaitis spend most of the sum­mer in beach houses.

Khaled Al-Ha­jeri, the pres­i­dent of Kuwait’s Green Line So­ci­ety, said the en­vi­ron­men­tal non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion holds the gov­ern­ment re­spon­si­ble for any dam­age or health ef­fects of the spill. “The gov­ern­ment failed to is­sue a state­ment com­mu­ni­cat­ing the sever­ity of this dis­as­ter. There was no warn­ing to peo­ple against fish­ing or en­ter­ing the pol­luted area, even though it is close to some of the most pop­u­lar sum­mer des­ti­na­tions in Kuwait,” he said. “This is what hap­pens when un­der-qual­i­fied in­di­vid­u­als han­dle the gov­ern­ment’s most sen­si­tive en­vi­ron­ment en­tity.”

Ha­jeri said the spill be­gan days ago and that ac­tivists from his group in­formed au­thor­i­ties about it on Aug 10. “This me­dia black­out is in­ten­tional, and wrong. Peo­ple have the right to know. This will have an im­pact on the fish, the food peo­ple con­sume, and it di­rectly af­fects their health and safety,” he added. “I blame the En­vi­ron­ment Pub­lic Author­ity for ne­glect­ing its role in dis­cov­er­ing the spill be­fore it reached our coasts, and for not know­ing its source,” he told Kuwait Times.

Ha­jeri said there are three pos­si­ble sources for the oil spill. “It can only be from a Kuwaiti oil com­pany, Saudi oil com­pany or from an oil tanker in deep wa­ters. We are now wait­ing for the re­sults by the Re­gional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for the Pro­tec­tion of the Marine En­vi­ron­ment (ROPME) which has an emer­gency cen­ter in Bahrain to find out the source,” he said.

“I warn peo­ple to stay away from this spill, and they should not swim in the af­fected ar­eas. It’s very dan­ger­ous if the skin comes in con­tact with the oil. Also, the spill has given rise to toxic gases that evap­o­rate from it due to the heat. It’s also very dan­ger­ous for fish and other crea­tures liv­ing in the sea,” he stated. “I don’t ex­pect that the spill will spread to­wards Kuwait City due to the cur­rents’ di­rec­tion. Most prob­a­bly, it may reach Saudi Ara­bia,” Ha­jeri added.

“Emer­gency oil teams are still strug­gling to put an oil spill near Kuwait’s southern Ras Al-Zour area un­der con­trol,” said KPC spokesman Sheikh Talal said in an ear­lier state­ment car­ried by the of­fi­cial KUNA news agency. Emer­gency teams from Kuwait Oil Com­pany (KOC), Kuwait Na­tional Petroleum Com­pany (KNPC), sev­eral other oil com­pa­nies, the Min­istry of Elec­tric­ity and Wa­ter and En­vi­ron­ment Pub­lic Author­ity have har­nessed all ef­forts and ca­pa­bil­i­ties to deal with the oil spill in south Kuwait, he said in a press re­lease. They are now fo­cus­ing their ef­forts on pro­tect­ing wa­ter out­lets near the coun­try’s north­ern and southern Al-Zour power and wa­ter sta­tions, the spokesman added.

Boats and crews have been putting booms into the wa­ter to try and con­tain the spill. Of­fi­cials want to pro­tect wa­ter­ways, power plants and wa­ter fa­cil­i­ties first, then clean sur­round­ing beaches. There were no of­fi­cial re­ports on the source or size of the spill in the wa­ters off Kuwait’s southern coast, near the joint Kuwaiti-Saudi off­shore AlKhafji oil­field. Kuwaiti me­dia how­ever yes­ter­day quoted lo­cal oil experts as say­ing the spill orig­i­nated from an old 50-km pipe­line from Al-Khafji. The experts es­ti­mated that as many as 35,000 bar­rels of crude oil may have leaked into the wa­ters off Al-Zour, where Kuwait is build­ing a mas­sive $30 bil­lion oil com­plex that in­cludes a 615,000-bar­rel-per­day re­fin­ery.

Emer­gency teams have sealed off two power and wa­ter de­sali­na­tion plants in the area to pre­vent the con­tam­i­na­tion of drink­ing wa­ter. Kuwait de­pends largely on de­sali­na­tion for its fresh wa­ter supplies. Saudi Ara­bia and Bahrain, lo­cated south of Kuwait along the Gulf coast, said the spill had not reached their wa­ters. Saudi Ara­bia said that it had put into ac­tion a “cri­sis man­age­ment plan” and was con­duct­ing an aerial sur­vey of its oil plants along the coast in a state­ment pub­lished by the of­fi­cial SPA news agency. The Kuwait Petroleum Cor­po­ra­tion said teams from Saudi Ara­bian Chevron and the Oil Spill Re­sponse Lim­ited (OSRL) had joined the teams clean­ing the coastal wa­ters.

The joint op­er­a­tions cen­ter in Khafji said fa­cil­i­ties there have not been af­fected by the spill. In a press state­ment, Khafji Joint Op­er­a­tions (KJO) Pub­lic and Gov­ern­ment Re­la­tions Of­fi­cer Riyadh Al-Has­san pointed out that KJO emer­gency plan was en­forced im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing the re­ports about oil leak­age from an oil tanker in north­east­ern Ara­bian Gulf wa­ters. This in­cluded an aerial sur­veil­lance of the area to check the safety of the fa­cil­i­ties and coasts, he said. He em­pha­sized that the sur­veil­lance showed that all KJO fa­cil­i­ties are okay and spot­ted no oil spill in its op­er­a­tions zone.

— AP

Pho­tos re­leased by the En­vi­ron­ment Pub­lic Author­ity show an oil spill near southern Ras Al-Zour in Ara­bian Gulf wa­ters.

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