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Massive oil spill caused by power plant leak spreads along Syrian coast

In this satellite photo from Planet Labs Inc., an oil spill is seen stretching off the coast near Baniyas, Syria, August 24, 2021. (Planet Labs Inc. via AP)
In this satellite photo from Planet Labs Inc., an oil spill is seen stretching off the coast near Baniyas, Syria, August 24, 2021. (Planet Labs Inc. via AP)

DAMASCUS, Syria — A massive oil spill caused by leakage from a power plant inside one of Syria’s oil refineries is spreading along the coast of the Mediterranean country, Syria’s state news agency says and satellite photos show.

SANA says the spill reached the coastal town of Jableh, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of the refinery in the town of Baniyas, adding that Syria’s environment department and the municipality of the coastal province of Latakia have placed all concerned departments on alert. It says work is underway to clean the coast in the rocky areas.

Yesterday, Syria’s government said that maintenance teams at Baniyas Thermal Station had brought a fuel leakage from one of the tanks under control.

Satellite images from Planet Labs Inc. today show what appear to be a massive 19-kilometer long spread oil spill from the Baniyas plant. An image from Monday showed no sign of the slick, suggesting whatever happened to cause the spill happened later.

The head of the Electricity Workers Syndicate at Tartous Workers Union, Dawoud Darwish, blames cracks in one of the fuel tanks at the thermal station. He points out that the tank was filled with 15,000 tons of fuel.

Syria’s oil resources are mostly outside of government controlled areas but its two refineries are under government control and operating. This makes Damascus reliant on Iran for fuel, but US Treasury sanctions have hindered the supply network, which spans Syria, Iran and Russia.

There has been a series of mysterious attacks on vessels in Mideast waters, including off Syria’s coast, for over a year. They have come amid rising tensions in the region between Iran, Israel and the United States.

In May, Syria’s foreign minister blamed Israel for mysterious attacks targeting oil tankers heading to Syria, saying they violate international law and will not go unpunished.

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