With all the attention focused on the still spewing oil platform leak in the Gulf of Mexico, who would be paying attention to another oil spill, now going in the Red Sea in the Middle East? That is what is apparently going on as Egyptian authorities appeared to try to cover up the spill which is occurring off the Hurghada Red Sea coastal resort, and is ready fouling the pristine beaches there as well as posing a great threat to some of the most beautiful coral reefs in the world, off the coasts of Israel, Egypt, and Jordan. The government says the spill is contained, but activists, the Associated Press reports are saying something else.
According to AP, environmental activists said yesterday that an oil spill off the coast of Egypt’s Red Sea is continuing even after the government said it had been contained, leaving turtles and sea birds covered in oil.
A government spokesman Magdy Rady told AP yesterday that the spill was contained and limited. However, an environmental group based in the Red Sea resort town of Hurghada told the news agency that the government was trying to cover up the extent of the damage and the leak had restarted.
“Just today I received news that the oil had started leaking again this afternoon after it had stopped Thursday,” said Ahmed el-Droubi, a biologist with the Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Association.
The first notice of this new environmental disaster appeared in an article published in the AFP News Site which reported that the Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Association (HEPA) sent out a distress call, saying that: “It started four or five days ago and the companies responsible didn’t notify anyone. It is catastrophic.”
A HEPA rep went on to say that the oil companies responsible for the leaking oil well platform had promised “to pay for the damages” being caused by the spill. His main concern is the environmental impact that this spill will cause.
The UK’s Sunday Times picked up the story, and now news reports are claiming that the spill is being caused a rig off Geisum Island, a rocky outcrop located about 35km from the Egyptian coast.
Operated by state-owned Geisum oil company, which, according to the Times, has been trying to cover up the incident; and that the oil had been leaking out for 4 or 5 days before the well was finally capped. Or is it?
This spill, in light of the significance that Egyptian environmental authorities have put on the special nature of the Red Sea coral reefs and beaches has caused an outcry from HEPA environmental organization; as well as from other environmental groups in both Egypt and elsewhere. “Already, hundreds of turtles, birds and other wild life have been killed by the spill,” HEPA said.
Not long after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill began to make headlines, a relatively “minor” oil spill incident had been reported in the Gulf of Suez, when a Russian freighter emptied its fuel oil bilges into the water, causing an oil slick that stretched over 1 km off the coastal city of Ras Ghareb in eastern Egypt.
But again, this oil spill appears to be like throwing a very small pebble in a very large lake, if compared to this new spill off “Egypt’s Riviera” which has been a prime money maker for Egypt’s tourism industry, as well as a “Mecca” for naturalists and divers who come from all over the world to view and study the areas unique coral reefs and marine animal life.
What damage that will ultimately be done to this area is evident, with many tourists already canceling holiday vacations there. More action to curb the damage should be forthcoming from the government, says Ali, who also blames governmental authorities for “doing too little, too late.”
UPDATE: June 24 – Hurghada Eco Group Says Spill is Contained, Clean Up in Progress
Photo via diluvi