A giant patch of oil from a leak in a Syrian energy complex is currently moving away from Cyprus as the wind changed direction, as authorities in the Eastern Mediterranean countries and the European Union are assessing the damage and ways to clean up the sea and coastlines.
An oil spill between Syria and Cyprus, estimated to be covering 800 square kilometers, doesn’t pose an immediate threat for the island. It came near its shores but the wind changed direction and the material floated away for now, but it still poses a major risk for Turkey and potentially other countries.
The oil leaked out a week ago from a tank in a refinery and thermal power plant complex in Baniyas in Syria but the government there initially talked down the volume. The country’s coast in the area is now covered in oil and the local authorities are trying to organize a cleanup.
SAR data imagery by @sentinel_hub
Right: 2021-08-30 (yesterday)
The sea current is pushing the bulk of the oil spillage towards the northwest, with northern Cyprus and Turkey in its line of trajectory. Some faint westbound traces are visible. cc @wammezz pic.twitter.com/GjJqkgIhlo
— TankerTrackers.com, Inc. (@TankerTrackers) August 31, 2021
As satellite imagery is being analyzed, the size of the spill is estimated at as much as 20,000 tons. But Orbital EOS said in the latest report that the layer is thick only on 2.5 square kilometers while that the rest is so-called oil sheen, a thin film that can evaporate relatively quickly.
The most exposed part of Cyprus is the Karpas or Karpaz peninsula, controlled by the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Emergency services have been setting up floating barriers off the coast. In any case, oil is also sinking as it thickens and it will surely inflict big damage on marine life.
Clean-up of polluted shores from a major oil spill at #Baniyas is ongoing south of the power plant, August 28, 2021. Over 15 tons of fuel from a oil storage tanker leaked into the Mediterranean Sea, stretching over hundreds of kilometers. pic.twitter.com/iSTxJFFTFn
— Wim Zwijnenburg (@wammezz) August 31, 2021
Two ships sent by Turkey to assist the effort are on their way and the European Maritime Safety Agency told the Republic of Cyprus it would deploy a specialized oil recovery vessel if necessary. The government in Nicosia expressed the belief that the oil slick wouldn’t reach the territory it controls.
At the same time, cleanup efforts are underway in the Aegean Sea as last week a cargo ship sank after hitting a rock, which resulted in an oil spill of 20 square kilometers.