Israel’s worst environmental accident, possibly worse than the devastating Carmel fires of 2010, happened yesterday morning. An estimated 600,000 gallons of crude oil (3 million liters) is causing severe damage to the southern port city area of Eilat, endangering also those close to the Eilat border, media outlets confirm.
The damage was caused by a pipeline burst while workers were upgrading the pipeline. The oil spill reached as far as the Evrona nature reserve. Some 80 people from both Israel and Jordan have been taken to the hospital, showing us once again that environmental problems have no borders.
Cleaning up the oil spill and the delicate ecosystem could take months, possibly even years.
Israeli officials say the pipeline burst during maintenance on the line 15 miles from the port city of Eilat at a new section of the pipeline.
The pipeline was breached during maintenance at a spot some 20km from Eilat on Wednesday evening. The oil spill leak has been stopped, but it has caused damage, even leaking into streams and rivers nearby.
Now is the time for winter rains in Israel, meaning that the oil spill could get much worse if the bulk isn’t cleaned up before another downpour.
The Evrona nature reserve is an important part of the Jordan Rift Valley, the natural corridor that runs from the Sea of Galilee in the north, down to the Red Sea. The corridor also extends up into other countries in the region.
Millions of wild birds pass through this corridor twice a year from Africa to Europe and then back again.
The pipeline was built back in the 1960s in better diplomatic times to bring Iranian oil from the Persian Gulf to Europe. After the Islamic Revolution it has been used primarily to transport oil within Israel.
#2 image via Haaretz; top image Israel Environment Ministry; photos 3, 4 and 5 Israel Police