Flooded with crude oil

Flooded with crude oil


Flakes of dried oil peel off the ground in the Evrona desert reserve in Israel.

A breached pipeline started spewing oil into the nature reserve, which is famed for its rare deer and douma palms, a week ago. Experts have described the leak as one of the worst pollution disasters in the country’s 66-year history.

. BE'ER ORA, Israel. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Ecologists said it could take years to clean up the massive spill that flooded the nature reserve with up to five million litres of crude and threatened to spread to the Red Sea shore and neighbouring Jordan.

Clean-up teams have started sucking up the slick and have dug pools and erected barriers to stop it spreading further. But they warned that any rainfall could swell the black streams and overwhelm their defences.

. BEER ORA, Israel. REUTERS/Yehuda Ben Itach

After the clean-up, experts would still have to deal with the damage caused to the fragile environment, they added.

"How exactly do you take care of a deer that is running and limping because of the oil? ... How do you clean the vegetation? This is very complicated business," Roey Talbi, an ecologist with Israel's Nature and Parks Authority, told Army Radio.

. BE'ER ORA, Israel. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

The breach occurred during maintenance on the pipeline between the city of Eilat on the Red Sea and Ashkelon on the Mediterranean coast, near the border with Jordan.

Between three and five million litres of oil leaked, of which about two million have since been drained with suction equipment, said the Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company which owns the line. Some 20,000 tons of contaminated earth has been removed.