Cyprus Mail

North spill will take months to clean

photo Haluk Doğandor

By Peter Stevenson

THE OIL spill off the Karpas coast in the north Gastria will take months to clean-up and the effects on the environment will be long-lasting according to the head of the fisheries department.

Loizos Loizides said yesterday that despite finally accepting help from the Greek Cypriot sides, the Turkish Cypriots have not allowed anyone from the south of the island to approach the affected areas.

“Unfortunately the clean-up is not going well and despite handing over 400 metres of absorbent booms on Wednesday the whole process is very time-consuming,” he said.

Loizides added that even though the Turkish Cypriots finally caved in and sought help from the government, the damage had already been done.

“Once the first 24 hours pass then dealing with the problem intensifies and becomes even more difficult as the oil seeps into the waterbed and into underwater plant-life,” he said.

At sandy beaches the only solution is to remove the sand but with rocky beaches the clean-up process becomes even trickier according to Loizides as each stone needs to be cleaned one-by-one.

One positive, he said, was that the oil spill has not spread to southern shores or seas.

“Prognostic systems from the University of Cyprus have predicted that the oil will not enter our waters although the fisheries department and the department of merchant shipping are both prepared for any scenario which will see the oil spread towards our shores,” Loizides said. He added that patrols were constantly taking place in the area.

“The clean-up will take months but the consequences to the environment will be long-lasting because it was not dealt with in a timely manner,” Loizides concluded.

He said his department was involved in a new action plan since joining the EU, to deal with similar events. It collaborates with the UN anti-pollution centre and the Department of Merchant Shipping. He explained that small incidents of up to 20-tonne leaks are the responsibility of the fisheries department and for medium-sized incidents of between 20 and 100 tonnes the department of merchant shipping and the EU are also involved.

It was reported on Tuesday that around 100 tonnes of oil were spilled at around 2am that say after a pipeline from a tanker broke during attempts to supply the AKSA Energy power station.

Initial reports from the north claimed the oil spill covered a radius of five kilometres on the southern side of the Karpas peninsula but by Wednesday the size of the spill had reached seven kilometres.

Yesterday morning saw the arrival of the Turkish vessel Seagül, a special oil-spill clean-up ship, off the coast of Gastria following a request from AKSA. A team of 60 people and a team of specialists were taken by cargo plane to the area and also began helping the clean-up process.

An AKSA official claimed yesterday that half of the oil which had been spilled into the sea had been cleaned and that it would take around two months to remove the rest of the oil.

Environmentalist groups are preparing protests and have organised a gathering outside the AKSA power plant in Gastria for Sunday at 10am.

Turkish Cypriot daily Havadis reported that environmental organisations said it was the biggest disaster which has ever happened in the north, and criticised the fact that AKSA’s equipment was inadequate and inefficient.

Experts claimed that absolutely no measures that should have been taken had been taken.

‘Prime minister’ Sibel Siber said that the police would carry out an investigation to determine negligence. According to daily Kibris, a total of 700 metres of absorbent boom is required to contain the spill.

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